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.

Jun 14

Winter of the World by Ken Follett

winter of the worldAuthor: Ken Follett
Title: Winter of the world
ASIN: B007FEFLTO
Available at: Amazon, and Goodreads.
Rating: 5 of 5
Family Friendliness: 1 of 5

Synopsis by author:

“Winter of the World picks up right where the first book left off, as its five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, Welsh—enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.

Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until she commits a deed of great courage and heartbreak. . . . American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific. . . . English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism. . . . Daisy Peshkov, a driven American social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set, until the war transforms her life, not just once but twice, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war—but the war to come.

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century. From the drawing rooms of the rich to the blood and smoke of battle, their lives intertwine, propelling the reader into dramas of ever-increasing complexity.”

Linda’s Review:

This book picks up after “Fall of Giants” and continues on this time however from the perspective of the children who were born in the first book.  All though there is no need to read Fall of Giants first in order to enjoy Winter of the World, it makes it definitely more enjoyable and is easier to understand the vastness of all the characters. Ken Follett is a master in story telling, although some individuals may find it slow at times with too much description, but for me even the descriptions are fascinating as he has a ways of making even the environment a character in and of itself. If you enjoyed books such as A Game of Thrones, then you are bound to enjoy these books, the only difference is that Follett writes historical fiction where George R.R. Martin writes in fantasy genre, but in my mind they are both epic novels in that they span multiple decades and cover the lives of people who become real to me. Winter of the World deals with the lead up to the second world war, the war and then the aftermath. Although I was more familiar with the happenings of world war 2, it was still intriguing to see Follett bring it all to live. Contrary to many WWII stories, there was only a single concentration camp scene that lasted not even a chapter. I applaud Follett for not falling into the trap of writing solely about concentration camps, since that is what typically stands out in peoples minds. Instead, he chose to show the hardship of those left behind, that had to survive because their loved ones were killed or taken away. Bravo! I say!  This book is written for a mature audience, and therefore is not family friendly at all. There are some real graphic scenes involved and I would not allow kids to read or listen to this book. Overall, I enjoyed it, and would recommend it for a read, however be prepared it is a rather lengthy one.

Jun 07

Audio Book – Destiny’s Flower

Destiny's Flower | [Linda Harley]

I’m so terribly excited to announce to all my readers, that Destiny’s Flower is now available at Audible.com After months of waiting, it has been released this week, and made available to the world. The sales of the audio book are already doing well beyond my expectation.

I would like to personally thank Victoria Masterson, who graciously agreed to be part of this project. She is a wonderful up and coming narrator and did a marvelous job at this, with some direction from me. Her interpretation of Destiny’s Flower is riveting and I believe everyone will enjoy listening to her.

I’d also like to thank ACX for making this possible. ACX is a subsidiary of Audible.com that have created an online presence for authors and narrators to collaborate to make these types of projects possible.  They allow narrators to audition for the books, and then provide authors the tools for selecting and contract negotiation with these narrators. If there are any authors out there considering audio book publishing, I would definitely give ACX.com a try. I had to use zero up front capital for the project, because Victoria agreed to produce the audio book for a cut of the profit. ACX standard is a 50/50 split of the profit. Personally, I felt this was totally reasonable, because Victoria was taking as much of a risk as I was, and she spent countless hours producing this book, and getting it to be top notch quality.

However, I would caution authors that not all narrators are alike, and not all have the technical skills necessary to produce an audio book. So be warned, you pay for what you get. It’s important to audition each potential narrator before making an offer.  Here are some things that were important to me on selecting a narrator:

1. The narrator needed to have a clear clean voice. Someone who I’d be willing to listen to for hours, because I was going to have to review the material. If you can’t even listen to the narrator for 30 minutes with out wanting to tear your hair out, then you should probably move on to the next audition.

2. I listened to the sample audio files from the auditions over a good quality headsets over my computer. I used the Logitech $30 headset. The reason you want to listen to it over headsets as opposed to your regular computer speakers, is because you get a much more accurate experience. The computer often times filters out noise. You need to listen to see if there are any background noises, whether the narrator has any popping sounds on their p’s and t’s, etc. All of these are subtle nuances, but a good narrator/producer will filter those out. Also, decide whether you want to be able to hear the narrator take breaths or not. People kind of have their own preference for that.

3. If you found someone you like, but something seems wrong with the production, you can always ask them to clean it up. If they’re willing to do so, and it sounds great, then you have a winner. If they’re not willing/able to clean it up, then run away. You don’t want to put a poor product out there on the market.

4. Once you’ve selected your narrator, ACX makes it easy to give them the contract and they handle all of the financial transactions, including taxes, which makes this an even better deal.

5. Victoria and I skyped a few times, to go over the material, to review pronunciations, and talk about the general tone of the book. She then did a chapter or two, for me to comment one and provide feedback on. However, I found that after that, things were pretty much set and on a role.  She required little direction, and was able to produce the book, well within the agreed upon time frame.

6. I should point out, that many of these narrators have day jobs. So don’t expect your book to be done within a 2 weeks, if you’re not willing to pay the money up front. Be reasonable, and realize like you, they are doing this because this is what they love to do.

Well, I hope that you’ve found some of this information useful.  I’d be happy to answer any questions that any new authors may have about this process. Drop me a note at rosebuzlrh AT gmail DOT com.

Cheers,

Linda

Jun 07

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

pandemoniumAuthor: Lauren Oliver
Title: Pandemonium
ASIN: B0071MDA2U
Available at: Amazon, and Goodreads.
Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 5 of 5

Synopsis by author:

“I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.”

Linda’s Review:

Pandemonium was an odd book for me. The reason being that it oscillated between present day Lana, and the Lana right after she escaped from Portland in book 1  Delirium. I would strongly recommend reading this series in order, since these books are not intended to be self sustaining, but rather coupled closely together. Anyways, back to the flipping back and forth. Initially it was really distracting and I really did not see the point of it. I found it rather annoying to keep having to change my mindset depending on what time frame I was in. Towards the end I got used to it, but still thought it did not deliver. I understand why the author did it, simply because for 50% of the time with the present Lana she is trapped in a cell, and in order to ensure that there is movement in the book, the author needed to intersperse chapters with movement and action, in order to keep the reader going. In my opinion, this backfired on the author and was not executed well, since it led to distraction. I would much rather have red the book in sequence of order of events, rather than this disjointedness. Nonetheless the story was endearing, and we learn much more about Lana and see her grow, but not necessarily in a good way or in the way that we predicted she would. Lana becomes harder, a warrior towards the end, we see her fight for her life and take risks that she’d never have dreamt of doing as the “old” Lana back in Portland. This book is family friendly, and I think some tweens will actually enjoy reading it and maybe in the process learn a few things about taking responsibility for who you are.

May 15

Arthur Pong and His Smelly Song by Jose Fernandez

Title: Arthur Pong and His Smelly Song

Author: Jose Fernandez

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.

Overall: 2 of 5

Family Friendliness: 4 of 5

Author Synopsis

Arthur Pong was just an ordinary boy who after school loved to sing and fart at the same time! His neighbors cannot stand his awful pong, but will that stop Arthur from singing and farting his pants off?

Roni’s Review

My kid sister asked me to read this book one night during our family hour. She thought it was sort of funny. Our parents were not particularly offended by it, but the sometimes broken rhyming and bathroom humor made this one a hard sell. I think the author has a lot of talent in drawing, and with the right computer platform he’d make a great illustrator. But the story did not get a lot of laughs, and I ended up putting it down before finishing it. This book received a 4 of 5 for family friendliness, for obvious reasons.

May 15

The Coffeepot Cookbook by Walt Goodridge

Title: The Coffeepot Cookbook

Author: Walt Goodridge

Available at : Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.

Overall: 4 of 5

Family Friendliness: 3 of 5

Author Synopsis:

Whether you’re a nomad traveler who spends a lot of time in hotels, OR a budding entrepreneur with limited resources, OR a divorced mid-lifer living in the basement of a generous friend who won’t agree to feed you as part of his generosity while you “find yourself,” OR just a run-of-the-mill cheapskate looking for ways to save on the cost of utility bills and kitchen appliances, The Coffeepot Cookbook is for you!

Roni’s Review

I found myself in a position a while back where I had to fend for myself (in terms of food) while at home. I thought that there was no better place to try out this book, and so took to it right away. The result was quite messy. You obviously need to practice to get it all done neatly. But in a bind, I say WHY NOT? I give this author a 4 out of 5 because of his creativeness in filling a need that all of us have experienced before. The family friendliness was a 3 out of 5 because I recall moments when I thought “that’s not something I’d want to say in front of kids.” Overall, great work Mr. Goodridge! I look forward to your other works.

May 10

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

requiemAuthor: Lauren Oliver
Title: Requiem
ASIN: B0089LOKHG
Available at: Amazon, and Goodreads.
Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 4 of 5

Synopsis by author:

“They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.
But we are still here.
And there are more of us every day.
Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.
Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.
But we have chosen a different road.
And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.
We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.”

Linda’s Review:

Requiem was a great conclusion to the Delirium series written by Lauren Oliver. I found it both engaging and endearing at the same time. This time it worked for Lauren to switch perspectives between Lena and Hana, simply because it helped to build the tension toward the end of the story. But unfortunately, these three books seem to appear a bit disjointed. Lena grew in character tremendously during book 1 and 2, but in book 3 there is no growth, only a realization that she has changed and things can never go back to the way they were. Everything is tied up in a neat box at the end, making me feel let down, as up to now its been portrayed that life is messy in the wilds. Sure there are some questions left unanswered and room for future books in the series, but overall, I think its good to end here and leave the rest up to the imagination of the reader. As for family friendliness, I’d say its okay for tweens and up to read it, but would probably be inappropriate for younger kids, as they would not understand the implications of some characters actions.  Overall a great book, but I’m ready to move on.

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