Aug 29

Winning numbers: An Introduction to the Riley Family by Randall Franklin

 

Author: Randall Franklin

Title: Winning Numbers: An Introduction to the Riley Family

Available at: Amazon, Goodreads

Rating: 3 of 5

Family Friendliness: 2 of 5

Author Synopsis:

“He is a scientist, secretly winning major lotteries. Russian mobsters want him dead. She is a single parent on the run from Mexican drug smugglers. Nobody in law enforcement believes her story. He and she find each other, falling in love as predators around the globe unite against them. Soon one-in-ten-million lottery odds look more manageable than staying alive — unless, of course, you’re a Riley.”

Roni’s Review:

I made it through about 30% of the book before giving up. No doubt the action sequences and multiple-story plot will appeal to some readers, but it just didn’t work for me. I will say, however, that the book is well written for a new author. I do remember thinking during my skimming of the last few chapters that the characters were a bit on the corny side. That added a bit of fun to the book for me. Overall score is 3 of 5 because it didn’t keep my attention, and family friendliness score of 2 out of 5 because of violence and weapons.

Aug 29

Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques by Rebecca Welton

 

 

Author: Rebecca Welton

Title: Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques

Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodread

Overall Rating: 3 of 5

Family Friendliness: 4 of 5

Author Synopsis:

“As a parent, what do you do if you are suffering sleepless nights but don’t want to let your baby cry it out? Most families are left just trying to weather the storm. Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques: Alternatives to Controlled Crying offers families a new approach. The book provides effective options for helping parents teach their babies to happily settle to sleep on their own and sleep through the night – without leaving them to cry alone.
Mother-of-two, Rebecca Welton, knows all about sleepless nights. At five months, her youngest was still waking 8 to 10 times a night. With little information available to help, Rebecca set about devising a settling technique that worked for her baby and her family. Now qualified child sleep practitioner, she has brought together the best tips on how to get your baby to sleep better and for longer. Rebecca delivers five different Trust Techniques, including one for co-sleepers, that build on the trust between you and your baby by ensuring that you always respond to their needs and never leave them to cry alone.”

Roni’s Review:

This book is a quick overview of some of the ways to help you get your baby settled for the night, and through the night. I think parents can appreciate the effort taken into making a quick-read book when they barely get any good rest themselves. However, I do have my issues with this book. One thing that irritated me was the author’s repeated comments on evolution. Not only does she offend people who may very well be turning to God in their stressed situations, but she’s also wasting the reader’s limited time. The author uses her own personal experiences, which I think add value to the book. She also addresses subjects not usually covered in popular books, such as the effects siblings suffer during the first few months. This book would not be my recommendation to parents-to-be, who still have some time to read books that go a little more into detail.

 

Aug 29

Keeping Up by Sharon Sieja

 

Author: Sharon Sieja

Title: Keeping Up

Available at: Amazon , Barnes and Noble , Goodreads

Rating: 4 of 5

Family friendliness: 4 of 5

Author Synopsis:

“Something big and dangerous may be stalking you.
The escape record at the Caroland Zoo had been clean since 1992. Now suddenly, in three months’ time, there have been six escapes. In every instance, the keepers insist the animals were secure when they last checked on them.
Julie Landon, head bear keeper, is convinced someone is intentionally releasing animals. And she thinks she knows who is responsible. She just has to prove it before another keeper is injured. Or worse.”

Roni’s Review:

This book is very well written, and is very clean as far as I have read. But, the story took too long for me to develop. I read about 45% of the book, including the 15% that I skimmed, before I finally put it down. I think that this story can be very gripping to others, especially when they’re in the mood for suspense. And I can sense that there will be an even greater amount of action and suspense beyond the point that I’ve reached. Although I’m not planning on returning to this one in the near future, I will keep it in my library for when the mood strikes me. Overall rating is 4 out of 5, only because it couldn’t keep me flipping the pages. A Family Friendliness score of 4 out of 5, since the story involves tranquilizer weapons and frightening situations during animal escapes. Overall, a job well done, Sharon!

Aug 16

When the lion feeds by Wilbur Smith

When the Lion Feeds (Courtney, #1)Author: Wilbur Smith
Title: When the lion feeds
Available at: AmazonAudible and Goodreads.
Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 1 of 5

Author’s Synopsis:

“‘Something always dies when the lion feeds and yet there is meat for those that follow him.’ The lion is Sean, hero of this tremendous drama of the men who took possession of South Africa in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Sean and his twin-brother Garrick grew up on their father’s farm in Natal. The first part of the book deals with his childhood and youth and his longing to become a successful farmer and hard-hitting fighter like his father.

The tough life of cattle-farming is brusquely interrupted by the Zulu Wars, when Sean and his brother see fighting for the first time. Wilbur Smith vividly recreates the excitement of the war for the young men-their hope of winning their own cattle, the horror of the massacre at Isandhlwana, the heroism of the defence at Rorkes Drift.

‘Witwatersrand’ is the name of the second part of this book and it tells the story of Sean’s fabulous success in the gold rush and his rich life with Duff Charleywood and the beautiful Candy in the new town of Johannesburg, where huge fortunes were made and lost in a morning’s dealing on the Exchange.

The atmosphere of this feverish, violent time is brilliantly drawn: the heavy drinking, the elaborate houses, the ruthless abandonment of the failure. Sean and Duff are caught at last in a trap laid by their rival, the sinister and clever Hradsky, and leave Johannesburg for the wilderness to seek their fortunes once more.

And now the book moves to its climax. At last it seems as though Sean will settle to a quiet married life – but fate has other plans for him. They return to Johannesburg and tragedy strikes quickly. Sean finds himself alone once more…

Filled with action scenes in war and the early heady days of the gold rush, and adventure among the vast game herds of the African wilderness, this novel is dominated by the towering compelling personality of Sean, whose life story is continued in The Sound of Thunder and A Sparrow Falls.”

Linda’s Review:

Having grown up in Natal, South Africa, I had a special appreciation for this book. Although I grew up in a much different era than Sean, a lot of the scenery has not changed much over the years, and so I enjoyed all of the descriptive writing. This is also the first book that I’ve ever read by author Wilbur Smith. At times it was rather exciting, with a lot of action and intrigue going on. I was amazed at how well Wilbur Smith was able to characterize all the different people and stay true to their natures. The book is definitely driven by characterization, and so I’ve been able to learn a lot by how Wilbur Smith writes and how his characters come to live. To the point where one can almost laugh and cry along with them. At times though, the story dragged on for to long harping on one point or another, or seemingly took a tangent to the main story line of Sean. Only in the middle to later, did the story solely focus on Sean, and I enjoyed that tremendously. It got rather boring, whenever the book focused on secondary characters whom I really did not care much for. This book is clearly intended for a mature audience. Most kids and even teens will not enjoy this book.

Aug 09

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative BattlesAuthor: Steven Pressfield
Title: The War of Art
Available at: Amazon, and Goodreads.
Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 1 of 5

Author’s Synopsis:

“Think of The War of Art as tough love… for yourself.

Since 2002, The War of Art has inspired people around the world to defeat “Resistance”; to recognize and knock down dream-blocking barriers and to silence the naysayers within us.Resistance kicks everyone’s butt, and the desire to defeat it is equally as universal. The War of Art identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.Though it was written for writers, it has been embraced by business entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, military service members and thousands of others around the world.”

Linda’s Review:

I will start off by saying that this book should be taken with a grain of salt. I’m a Christian, and therefore do not believe in mysticism and a muse. Instead I believe that the Lord gave me a talent, and that I’m to use that talent to the best of my abilities for Him. However, this book did have some good insights. In that, as I was reading it, I constantly found myself nodding my head, going like… oh wow, yeah, I totally feel like that sometimes. The author did an excellent job of capturing the human part of my nature that struggles with my talent. It gave me some insight into why I sometimes struggle to sit down and write, and gave me some excellent tips to use to overcome the fears within me, that are often times my greatest personal barriers. It also helped me to recognize those things in life that hinder me from being creative. I’ve already started taking steps to removing those barriers. Since I’ve started actively creating again, I’m a much happier and satisfied person. I was really frustrated there for some time, and had difficulty understand where my frustration came from. After reading this book, I understood it was because I was letting resistance get in the way from doing what I’m called to do. It helped me to recognize my weakness, and therefore be prepared to know that I have to deal with it. Therefore, for this purpose I’m happy to recommend this book to anyone with a creative nature, that is seeking to express themselves, and wondering why they can’t simply sit down and do it.  As for kid friendliness, best wait for your kid to get into college, before having them read this, as much of it will not be applicable.

Aug 02

The 13th Reality (Vol. 4): The Void of Mist and Thunder

The Void of Mist and Thunder  (The 13th Reality #4)Author: James Dashner
Title: The 13th Reality: The Void of Mist and Thunder
Available at: AmazonAudible and Goodreads.
Rating: 5 of 5
Family Friendliness: 5 of 5

Author’s Synopsis:

“Atticus Higginbottom;aka Tick;has known all along that when the battle for every reality is on the line, his role will be a crucial one. But he never could have imagined how this final challenge would go down. While Tick’s friends Paul, Sofia, and Sato work together with the Realitants to fight the newest and biggest threat to the very fabric of all that exists, Tick finds himself alone with the villains responsible for the damage: Mistress Jane and Reginald Chu.

Each character faces unimaginable choices and death-defying odds in this breathless conclusion to a quirky, clever series. Ultimately, it will take a stunning sacrifice to save the day.”

Linda’s Review:

Wow. That’s all I can say. This book did not disappoint. It neatly wrapped up many of the unanswered questions and confusion that had plagued me in book 3. The rich imagination of James Dashner, clearly came out in this book, as absolutely nothing was predictable. This kept me on the edge of my chair the entire time, wondering how were they ever going to overcome these impossible odds. An ultimate sacrifice is made, but not to worry the good guys win in the end, although unexpected. Totally appropriate for kids. If they can make it past the 3rd book in the series, than this final book is definitely worth the effort.

Jul 26

The 13th Reality (Vol. 3): The Blade of Shattered Hope

The Blade of Shattered Hope (The 13th Reality, #3)Author: James Dashner
Title: The 13th Reality: The Blade of Shattered Hope
Available at: AmazonAudible and Goodreads.
Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 5 of 5

Author’s Synopsis:

“Things have changed for Atticus Higginbottom. After the near catastrophe in the Fourth Reality, Tick’s being homeschooled in the fields of science, trying to master the mysterious Chi karda. But just as he begins to make progress, Mistress Jane reappears, now hideously scarred and much more powerful. She has tapped into the universe’s darkest secret to create the Blade of Shattered Hope, and in her quest to attain a Utopian Reality for the future of mankind, she’s ready to risk billions of lives including those of Tick’s parents and sisters to set her plan in motion. Her vengeance knows no bounds. When rumors begin to circulate about the secret scientific experiments taking place at the Factory, Tick and his friends Sato, Sofia, and Paul are faced with their most dangerous task yet. And they must not fail; the entire universe could cease to exist.”

 

Linda’s Review:

This book in my opinion was a bit boring. It did not seem to really get any direction, and was rather confusing. Mistress Jane comes back with vengeance, and tries to destroy a reality, and Tick has to come to the rescue. The problem is that Tick has no idea what to do, and so it makes him a little pathetic. In the previous books he was an explorer, in this book he’s just a wimp. Would have liked to see more of a positive growth arc for him, but rather it seems that he’s on a negative growth arc, as the battle between good and evil is carried out in him. The ending however was riveting, and made me want to read the next book, just so that I could know how the story ends. This books appropriate for kids to read.

Jul 12

The 13th Reality (Vol. 2): The Hunt for Dark Infinity

The Hunt for Dark Infinity (The 13th Reality, #2)Author: James Dashner
Title: The 13th Reality: The Hunt for Dark Infinity
Available at: AmazonAudible and Goodreads.
Rating: 5 of 5
Family Friendliness: 5 of 5

Author’s Synopsis:

“It’s been a quiet summer for Tick, Paul, and Sofia, but the latest message from Master George changes everything.

The Realities are in danger — and from something more terrible than Mistress Jane and the mutated Chi’karda of the Thirteenth Reality. People from all Realities are unexplainably going insane. Worse, some Realities are fragmenting, disintegrating into nothingness. Master George has learned that Mr. Chu from the Fourth Reality is working on a mysterious new weapon called Dark Infinity. But no one has any idea how to stop the weapon — or even if it can be stopped.

To make matters worse, Tick and his friends have been kidnapped, forced to wink from Reality to Reality, solving impossible riddles in order to survive the deadly traps surrounding them.

Mistress Jane and Tick find themselves in a race to reach the weapon first — but who will destroy it and who will become its master?”

Linda’s Review

If it can be believed, this second book in the 13th Reality series was even more riveting to than the first. Where the first book was full of mystery, it just wet the appetite for more. From book 2, we realize that we’re about to go on an amazing adventure with the realitants, where we’ll get to see and experience several of the other realities. Tick, Paul and Sophia are required to solve various puzzles as they are winked from world to world, all in order for Mr. Chew to test Tick, to see if he’s strong enough to control Dark Infinity. I love how the story seemingly starts off all harmless and boring, and how pretty soon things escalate and climax at the end. The author did an amazing job with the pace of this book, and I’d have to say that it was refreshingly unpredictable.  Kids of all ages will enjoy reading this book.

Jun 28

The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

13th bk1Author: James Dashner
Title: The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters
Available at: AmazonAudible and Goodreads.
Rating: 5 of 5
Family Friendliness: 5 of 5

Synopsis by author:

“What if every time you made a choice that had a significant consequence, a new, alternate reality was created–the life that would’ve been had you made the other choice? What if those new realities were in danger? What if it fell to you to save all the realities? Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is an average thirteen-year-old boy until the day a strange letter arrives in his mailbox. Postmarked from Alaska and cryptically signed with the initials “M.G.,” the letter informs Tick that dangerous–perhaps even deadly–events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. M.G. promises to send Tick twelve riddles that will reveal on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, something extraordinary will happen. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues M.G. sends to him? Will he be able to solve the riddles in time? Will Tick discover the life he was meant to live? The first volume of an outstanding new children’s fantasy series, The Journal of Curious Letters is filled with adventure, humor, riddles, and, oh, yes–danger… As M.G. warns Tick, Very frightening things are coming your way. Will you join Tick and his friends on an amazing journey through the Realities? What will your choice be?”

Linda’s Review:

This is the second time I’ve read this book. The first time was a few years back when I read it, and this time around I listened to the audio book. Regardless of the fact that I could remember much of the story, I still found it extremely engaging and great to listen to. The voice actor did a phenomenal job of catching the voices from all the different characters. Tick finds himself in a mystery and having to make some pretty difficult decisions about protecting himself, his family versus protecting the world from the evil Mistress Jan. Along the way are two friends to help him on this adventure, Sophia and Paul. All of the characters are artfully introduced in this book in a manner so that you get to know each of them that it is not overwhelming.  Although, the author switches point of view between characters, it is done in such a manner that it is not distracting to the story, also it does not detract from Tick’s point of view. Whenever possible, the author chose to wrote from Tick’s perspective, but it definitely makes the story more intriguing to switch POV.  This is definitely a book that most kids would enjoy reading, and really recommend it.

Jun 21

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth  (The Pillars of the Earth, #1)Author: Ken Follett
Title: The Pillars of the Earth
ASIN: B003TO5GXU
Available at: Amazon, and Goodreads.
Rating: 5 of 5
Family Friendliness: 2 of 5

Synopsis by author:

“The spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known—and a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.”

Linda’s Review:

Having a Civil Engineering background, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Anyone with an appreciation of art, culture, design, and building, will enjoy the world that Ken Follett has created here. At times the story got a little bit long winded, especially when the cathedrals were described in intricate details, but at the same time it gave one an appreciation for all the hard work that it took. I liked the fact that the book followed the story of several people during that time frame. Ken Follett has an excellent manner of weaving all of these lives together, and bringing it into a cohesiveness that is outstanding. This book is not for the faint of heart however, it has a lot gory battles and sex. Definitely a book intended for a mature audience and not appropriate for kids and young adults.

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