The Fountain of Youth by Sherman Woods


The Fountain of Youth by Sherman Woods
Click the link to purchase your copy of The Fountain Of Youth
from Amazon.com.

Author: Sherman Woods
Publisher: Timbuktu Renaissance Books
Copyright Date: 2009
Foundational Characters: Virtue, Baron, Ryan, The Timekeepers, The Evil Lord
Standard Rating: Y+
Reviewer Rating: 1 Star
Available Formats: Paperback
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615271944
ISBN-13: 978-0615271941
Book Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.3 inches
Page Count: 126
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Play, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Tags: Fiction, Play, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Description

In the distant future, a female Messiah is imprisoned by a timeless evil creature. A courageous man risks his life to save the planet and liberate the mystical woman. The Fountain of Youth is a musical love story. Baron and Virtue experience passion for one another from the moment their eyes meet. The Planet of Truth has less than a week to survive. The Evil Lord has cast a shadow of death over the whole planet. All of the inhabitants will be lost unless Baron’s attempt to free Virtue succeeds. Four other female beings called, “The Timekeepers” use their wisdom to help Virtue realize her own power. Their insights are shared through word and song. Baron receives encouragement from his three friends but must face the dangerous time portals alone. They are the only way for Baron to traverse time and space to reach the female Messiah. The time portals are patrolled by the fiercest and craftiest spirits in the universe. They seek Baron’s death. (From the author’s website)

The Revelation

The Fountain of Youth is a two-act play about a female savior that has been trapped by an evil lord for thousands of years. Multiple suitors have attempted to rescue the savior from the evil lord and have lost their lives in the process. In order for the potential suitor to have a chance to rescue the Savior, the suitor must have flawless love for the Savior-a trait that is extremely rare among men. The Savior’s name is Virtue. She is the daughter of Faith, one of the four Timekeepers whose responsibility it is to keep balance throughout the universes and portals that connect them.

In its written form, The Fountain of Youth reads like a really bad romance novel. Woods failed to hire a competent editor to help him clean up the dialogue, grammar, and punctuation. There are also a number of instances where clichés are used, and clichés are always unattractive when an author would like a piece of their writing to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, I was unable to take this story seriously.

The quality of the writing was very amateurish. The stage directions were very sparse and clipped, so the reader had a vague idea of the setting at best. This is a musical, and there are a number of songs throughout the play. The best quality of the lyrics is that some of them rhymed. As I read through the play and I would come across a song, I really wanted to hear the soundtrack performed so I could give a more objective review of that aspect of the play. But as they are on the printed page, the lyrics are one-dimensional at best. They failed to reach out and grab me as the reader. They failed to add interest to the play as a whole. It would be wonderful if the author and/or the publisher of this play made audios of the songs available on their respective websites so the reader could experience them prior to purchasing a copy of the printed play.

Characteristics

Contains descriptions of violence, suggestive dancing, and adult themes.

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Fountain Of Youth
from Amazon.com.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Sci-Fi, Sherman Woods | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Defeating Depression: The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction by Leo J. Battenhausen


Defeating Depression: The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction
Click the link to purchase your copy of Defeating Depression: The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction
from Amazon.com.

Author: Leo J. Battenhausen
Publisher: New Horizon Press
Copyright Date: 2011
Foundational Characters: n/a
Standard Rating: YA
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0882823248
ISBN-13: 978-0882823249
Book Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
Page Count: 224
Genre: Non-Fiction
Sub-Genre: Self Help, Depression, Psychology, Mind & Body
Tags: Non-Fiction, Self Help, Depression, Psychology, Mind & Body

Description

Today 450 million people globally suffer from mental disorders in both developed and developing countries. Of these, 154 million suffer from depression. In the United States alone, 18.8 million adults or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a depressive disorder.

Why do so many people feel down, dispirited and unable to find happiness? While the pharmaceutical companies continue to churn out “new and improved” anti-depressant drugs, the numbers of depressed people still continue to rise. Author Leo J. Battenhausen reveals twenty years of his proven therapies so those discouraged and disheartened can finally overcome the hopelessness that festers in their hearts.

Battenhausen, in Defeating Depression, delivers practical and usable concepts, ideas, practices, examples and strategies, which will provide readers with the ability to begin turning their lives around so that unhappiness and depression can be defeated. They will learn how to achieve their own peace of mind. Battenhausen reveals a unique, sensible and proven technique that will show how to utilize healthy self-talk, realistic self-appreciation and innovative coping strategies to handle difficult external events and troublesome people in ways that help us to become responsible for our own happiness and peace of mind.

Defeating Depression delivers a very usable and effective strategy for people to start feeling better about who they are, the world they live in, the work they do and the people with whom they choose to be involved.

“…spells out the way to cope with setbacks without turning to medications or bad choices such as alcohol or illegal drugs.”

— Bookviews by Alan Caruba

“…a valuable mental-health tool.”

— Library Journal

(From the publisher’s website)

The Revelation

When I first came across Defeating Depression by Leo Battenhausen, I thought to myself, not another book about fighting depression. The truth is, cases of depression are on the rise the world over. More and more people find themselves with a really bad, extended case of the blues that they just can’t seem to shake on their own, and these people all need help. Depression has hit my own family hard, and I know what it’s like to deal with a loved one that finds no joy in life.

Battenhausen’s approach is different from many others I have seen and read before. The subtitle of the book is, The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction. When I first read it, it didn’t make any sense. Then I started reading. The first two chapters explain what Calm and Sense are as a foundation for the rest of the book. Battenhausen keeps these two chapters very short-about 10 pages in total-so the reader will not get bogged down in the theories and fluff found in so many other books about depression.

Battenhausen brings a lot of experience to the table, and his experience comes through in the contents of his book. He is a very capable writer, keeping difficult terms out of the book when they aren’t necessary and defining terms that readers may not understand immediately. Many other authors gloss over important definitions when dealing with this topic, and the reader feels both alienated and stupid at the same time.

Defeating Depression is dripping with good advice. Really, anyone that wants to find more joy and happiness will benefit from reading this book. Depression is tough for people to deal with. Life in general is also difficult to deal with at times. This book can help you figure out what you can do to make your life easier and happier.

Characteristics

Written for a general audience.

Click the link to purchase your copy of Defeating Depression: The Calm and Sense Way to Find Happiness and Satisfaction
from Amazon.com.

Posted in Book Review, Consciousness, Health, Home, Home Life, Interactions, Leo Battenhausen, Mind-Body, Non-Fiction, Psychology & Counseling, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebceea Skloot


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
from Amazon.com.

Author: Rebecca Skloot
Publisher: Crown
Copyright Date: 2010
Foundational Characters: n/a
Standard Rating: Y+
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook, Kindle, Audible
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400052173
ISBN-13: 978-1400052172
Book Dimensions:
Page Count: 384
Genre: Non-Fiction
Sub-Genre: Professional & Technical, Science, Medical, Medicine, Medical Ethics, History & Philosophy, Research, Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, Cell Biology, Cancer, Cancer Research, Cell Research, Biography, Autobiography, Social Science
Tags: Non-Fiction, Professional & Technical, Science, Medical, Medicine, Medical Ethics, History & Philosophy, Research, Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, Cell Biology, Cancer, Cancer Research, Cell Research, Biography, Autobiography, Social Science, Tissue Rights, Biology, Cell Research

Description

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences. (From the publisher’s website)

———-

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

Soon to be made into an HBO movie by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.

Winner of several awards, including the 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Excellence in Science Writing, the 2011 Audie Award for Best Non-Fiction Audiobook, and a Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book Award, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was featured on over 60 critics’ best of the year lists. For more reviews, praise, and media coverage of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, please the book’s press page. Also explore the resources found throughout this site for book groups, classrooms, and more. (From the author’s website)

The Revelation

Henrietta Lacks died at the age of 31 from a very serious case of cervical cancer, a case that doctors believe was made more serious because of the syphilis virus which was brought home to her by her husband. One day, Henrietta knew something was wrong “down there” and probed herself to see if she could find something. She found a rock-hard mass just inside her cervical opening. The next thing she did was visit a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The doctor confirmed her findings, and later, before removing the growth, took a sample of Henrietta’s cancerous tissue and surrounding healthy tissue.

The year was 1951, and the science of cell culturing was in its infancy. The doctor who took the tissue samples from Henrietta tried to culture both tissue types. The healthy tissue died almost immediately, but the cancer tissue grew, and grew, and grew. In fact, Henrietta’s cancer cells grew so quickly, doubling about every 24 hours, that researchers were immediately fascinated with her cells. These were the first cells that this researcher, Henrietta’s doctor, had successfully grown in culture. When the researcher found that Henrietta’s cells grew very well, he developed methods to ship live tissue samples and started sharing Henrietta’s cells with other researchers around the world.

Henrietta’s cells are among the most researched cells on the planet, and came to be known as HeLa (derived from Henrietta’s name: HEnrietta LAcks). These cells became so important to the field of medical research that they also became one of the first cell lines to be commercially produced, making a number of biological supply companies billions of dollars. These cells were also used to produce vaccines, drugs, medical treatments, and medical tests-all of which made people and companies a lot of money. Meanwhile, Henrietta’s family and descendants could not afford health insurance to pay for the advances in medical care their wife’s, mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s cells helped to make possible.

This issue leads to one of the most fascinating questions in this book: Should individuals have the right to control their tissues after they are separated from their bodies? Also, if individuals are granted that right, should they also be compensated if it is found that those tissues are scientifically and commercially valuable? Even today, scientists and researchers can purchase vials of Henrietta’s cells for $200 to $10,000 each. Should Henrietta’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren receive a cut of those profits?

Rebecca Skloot worked on this book for a long, long time, and the book made its way to #1 on Amazon.com in 2010. It is at once fascinating, infuriating, emotional, heart-wrenching, and beautiful in its description of the person behind the HeLa cell line. It tells the story of Henrietta’s children and their struggle to find out what exactly happened to their mother. It also discusses the good that can come out of one person’s pain and suffering-the price of becoming immortal.

Characteristics

Contains some mild language and disturbing recollections of physical and sexual abuse of children.

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
from Amazon.com.

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Cancer Research, Cell Biology, Family, Health, History, History & Philosophy, Home, Home Life, Medical, Medical Ethics, Medical Research, Medicine, Non-Fiction, Professional & Technical, Rebecca Skloot, Science, Social Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima


The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Warrior Heir
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Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Hyperion
Copyright Date: 2006
Foundational Characters: Jack Swift, Ellen Stephenson, Leander Hastings, Linda Downey, Becca Swift, Jessamine Longbranch, Will Childers, Harmon Fitch, and others
Standard Rating: YA
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Library Binding, Audiobook, Kindle, Audible
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0786839163
ISBN-13: 978-0786839162
Book Dimensions:
Page Count: 432
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Occult
Tags: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Occult, Wizards, Warriors, Sorcerers, Enchanters, Weir, Anaweir, Weirflesh, Weirstone, The Heir Trilogy, The Heir Series

Description

One March day, Jack Swift, a high school student in a small college town, forgets to take the medicine he’s taken daily since he was an infant. There ensues a cascade of events that puts him in mortal danger.

Jack discovers he carries a secret within him that has made him a target of the ruthless wizards of the Red and White Rose. Jack is a Warrior Heir, the last of a dying breed, sought after by the Roses to fight in the tournaments that are used to allocate power among the Wizard Houses. Unknown to him, Jack has lived all his life surrounded by members of the Magical Guilds: wizards, enchanters, soothsayers, and sorcerers. They are determined to save him from the Roses.

With the aid of his aunt, a beautiful enchanter, Jack desperately tries to acquire the skills that might save his life. Jack and his friends, Will and Fitch, unearth a magical sword from a cemetery and fight off the wizards who would take it from them. Jack begins training with the dark and dangerous Leander Hastings, a wizard with a mysterious past.

Meanwhile, Jack is torn between his attraction to Ellen Stephenson, a new student at Trinity High School, and Leesha Middleton, his former girlfriend, who decides she wants him back.

Discovered and besieged by treachery at home, he flees to the Lake District of England. There he is confronted by the greatest challenge of all. (From the author’s website)

———-

Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great—until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts. Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game—a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he’s not just another member of Weirlind—he’s one of the last of the warriors—at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. (From the publisher’s website)

The Revelation

All Jack Swift knows is that he was born with a heart condition that nearly killed him as an infant. That was sixteen years ago. He was also told that Dr. Jessamine Longbranch performed a kind of heart surgery that saved his life, but almost no one knows the exact details of Jack’s “condition.” In order to control his condition and keep it in check, Jack has to take a very special medicine every day for the rest of his life, made exclusively by Dr. Longbranch, so the condition will not return as he gets older. One day, Jack didn’t have time to take his medicine and had an eye-opening experience at soccer try-outs that afternoon. He found that he felt surprisingly good without taking his medicine-actually better than he did after taking it. His mind felt clear, focused, and alert, like he had come out of a foggy valley.

As his eyes become more and more opened to the changes he experiences, to the real purpose of the “medicine” he had taken all of his life, until that one day, and to whom he and many family members before him really are, he realizes that he is a warrior, an heir to great strength and ability, gifts that are literally dying out and becoming extremely rare. And valuable. But that strength and ability comes at a very high price. As a warrior heir, he is compelled by ancient laws to compete in a contest called The Game-a contest of life and death between two well-trained killers. As the fanfare before the Game begins, Jack, to his utter shock and horror, discovers who his opponent is, and the Game will never be the same after their contest.

This was a good book. The back story created a solid foundation for the “current-day” events and served to make the whole plot more interesting. I found myself turning page after page, especially towards the end of the novel, because the plot was so compelling and interesting that I wanted to find out what was going to happen next.

I’m very surprised that it took so long for me to hear about this author and this series. It was very well-done—comparable to The Hunger Games in imagination, but it wasn’t as dark and hopeless. This novel was written for the teenage/young adult audience, but it would do well with an adult audience as well. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading Suzanne Collins, J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and other authors like them. If you haven’t yet, add Chima’s novels to your must-read list. You will not be disappointed.

Characteristics

Some mild violence and bloodshed. Some mild swearing.

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Warrior Heir
from Amazon.com.

Posted in Action, Adventure, Book Review, Cinda Williams Chima, Fantasy, Fiction, Occult, Uncategorized, Young Adult, Youth Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Emma Stopped the World by Gene and Iris Rotberg


How Emma Stopped the World by Gene and Iris Rotberg
Click the link to purchase your copy of How Emma Stopped The World from Amazon.com.

Author: Gene Rotberg, Iris Rotberg
Illustrator: Macarena Vejar
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Copyright Date: 2009
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12
Foundational Characters: Emma, Emma’s Grandmother
Standard Rating: YC, C
Reviewer Rating: 2 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439255741
ISBN-13: 978-1439255742
Book Dimensions: 9.3 x 7 x 0.2 inches
Page Count: 36
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Children’s, Picturebook, World, Influence, Globalization, Markets
Tags: Fiction, Children’s, Picturebook, World, Influence, Globalization, Markets

Description

This illustrated children’s book is a parable about how small events can trigger chain reactions around the world. It is a story about our globalized world and how people and events are linked together. The story centers around a six-year-old named Emma, who caused the world to come to a grinding halt. Business, trade, and work all stopped because of a seemingly minor event. This is a story for children, but its basic theme—how we are all linked together—is a universal one. (From the publisher’s website)

The Revelation

The world-wide community gets smaller and smaller every day. As globalization grows and extends its reach across each and every continent, citizens of every nation become increasingly dependent on one another. When a small cog in the global market machine fails, the consequences can be immediate, extensive, and detrimental. This is the point of the story told in How Emma Stopped the World.

Emma and her grandmother are driving on the interstate when Emma discovers that she has lost her blanket. Any parent knows exactly how devastating this can be to a child, and in order to prevent World War III from entering their home, any parent, or grandparent, will stop everything to console their child and make them happy-even if that means stopping in the middle of the freeway and halting the flow of global traffic and commerce.

Because all of the traffic behind Emma’s grandmother’s car had stopped, a global chain reaction began. Goods could not move in and out of our ports. Because of this, cargo ships had to line up in the water across the world, waiting their turn to load and unload their cargo. Since no goods could be brought into or taken out of the country, stores and factories all over the world had to close. If Emma could find her blanket, everything would go back to normal.

This is a cute story. As a kind of economic parable, it speaks to how sensitive the markets of the world are to seemingly small occurrences.

As cute as the story is though, there are many problems with the writing. Apparently, the Rotbergs did not hire an editor before sending the document off for publication. However, the illustrations are magnificent! As it is, the text reads horribly and looks extremely unprofessional. If the text had been edited, this would be a perfect little book.

Characteristics

This story is appropriate for children of all ages.

Click the link to purchase your copy of How Emma Stopped The World from Amazon.com.

Posted in Children's, Gene Rotberg, Iris Rotberg, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tess and the Dog Star by Gene and Iris Rotberg


Tess and the Dog Star by Gene and Iris Rotberg

Click the link to purchase your copy of Tess and The Dog Star from Amazon.com.

Author: Gene Rotberg, Iris Rotberg
Illustrator: Bryn Bernard
Publisher: CreateSpace
Copyright Date: 2011
Reading Level: Ages 4 to 8
Foundational Characters: Tess
Standard Rating: YC, C
Reviewer Rating: 2 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1456547453
ISBN-13: 978-1456547455
Book Dimensions: 10 x 8 x 0.1 inches
Page Count: 40
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Children’s, Picture Book, Astronomy, Dogs
Tags: Fiction, Children’s, Picture Book, Astronomy, Dogs

Description

Tess, a dog lover, decides to have a contest for the best-dressed dog. From all over the world come dogs in every conceivable form of transportation, dressed in unique and outlandish costumes representing their breed or country. Which is the best-dressed dog? This children’s book, with humor, humanity, and beautiful illustrations, shows how the contest is decided and by whom. A book to be enjoyed by both adults and children, for dog lovers, for astronomers and for anyone who likes stories that touch the heart. (From the publisher’s website)

The Revelation

There was a time that books had to be hand copied by scribes. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the modern movable type printing press around the year 1450, the world of publication was changed forever. For a long time, only the best books would be honored with publication. Then authors learned they can publish their own books via self-publication services. Anyone can write a book, have it published, and sell it to anyone who will read it. This is how Tess and the Dog Star became available.

Tess is a child who loves dogs, and one day, she decides to have a contest to decide which dog is the best-dressed. She encourages her friends to enter their dogs in the contest. Then she encourages her friends to invite their friends to enter as well. Soon, she is receiving entries from all over the world. In order to make the final decision, she picks the contest finalists from their photos and invites them to come to her home in order to make choosing the best-dressed dog easier. All of the dogs arrive at her home. It is night time and it is very dark outside. Tess see that all of the dogs are looking skyward, apparently transfixed by the same thing. They are looking at the constellation Canis Major. Sirius, the Dog Star, is part of that constellation, and is chosen as the undisputed winner of the best-dressed dog contest.

This is a cute story. Young readers (or listeners) up to age 9 or 10 would really enjoy this book. However, this book provides evidence that authors must have their books edited by a professional before they are submitted for self-publication. Every writer needs an editor, no matter how good they are. If the Rothbergs would have received the valuable assistance of an editor, their editor would have pointed out the need to strengthen certain parts of the story. Their editor also would have had the opportunity to clean the text up as well. As it reads now, there are multiple mistakes that would have been easy to correct. I would suggest cleaning these mistakes up before the next printing is ordered.

Characteristics

This is a children’s picture book that is appropriate for all ages.

Click the link to purchase your copy of Tess and The Dog Star from Amazon.com.

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Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth


Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Click the link to purchase your copy of Blood Oath from Amazon.com.

Author: Christopher Farnsworth
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Copyright Date: 2010
Foundational Characters: Nathaniel Cade, Zach Barrows, Agent Griffin, Dylan Weeks
Standard Rating: YA
Reviewer Rating: 2 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook, Kindle, Audible
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399156356
ISBN-13: 978-0399156359
Book Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
Page Count: 400
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Action, Adventure, Vampire, Fantasy, United States, Supernatural, Unexplained Phenomena
Tags: Fiction, Action, Adventure, Vampire, Fantasy, United States, Supernatural, Unexplained Phenomena

Description

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the President. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, he is a vampire. Cade battles nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream, enemies far stranger-and far more dangerous-than civilians have ever imagined.

Blood Oath is the first in a series of novels featuring Nathaniel Cade—the President’s vampire.

“Christopher Farnsworth’s taut thriller Blood Oath is an irresistible page-turner…A complex and unnervingly realistic tale in which vampire Nathaniel Cade is far less of a monster than his human colleagues at the CIA and FBI. Dazzlingly clever.” —The Washington Post

Blood Oath is exactly how I like my Presidential thrillers. With vampires.” —Brad Meltzer, author of The Book of Fate

Blood Oath is the vampire novel that finally gets it right. Christopher Farnsworth has done his homework in places where most writers wouldn’t even know to look-and the result is a rollicking tale of the supernatural grounded in some of the true oddities of American history. If Dan Brown wrote a vampire thriller, this would be it.” —Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America

“As someone who thinks Stoker’s Dracula has never been bettered, and who would happily stick a stake through the heart of most modern vampire fiction, it almost pains me to say how much I enjoyed Blood Oath. Witty, exciting, and compulsively readable, with a central character who seems destined to become a favorite of both skeptics and true blood believers, this may just be the best debut vampire novel in many years.” —John Connolly, author of The Lovers (From the publisher’s website)

_____________________________

This much is true…

In 1867, a young sailor was convicted of murdering two crew mates and drinking their blood.

The papers called him a vampire.

The President of the United States pardoned him, sparing his life. He spent the rest of his days in an asylum for the criminally insane.

At least, that’s the cover story…(From the author’s website)

The Revelation

Blood Oath is about a vampire named Nathaniel Cade that was essentially locked into a presidential protective position in the U.S. Government (this is how the title comes into play). Cade was a sailor in his early twenties, and through a series of events, Cade’s ship was discovered moored on a beach full of blood-drained bodies. Cade was found covered in the crew’s blood.

What, you might ask, is a vampire supposed to protect the President of the United States against? Well, to make a long story short, monsters. I mean, isn’t it obvious?

I recently read a Q&A article in a popular writing magazine that featured top youth genre editors. The theme of the Q&A was something to the effect of “If I am a writer and want to enter the youth market, what do I need to do?” One editor commented that paranormal subject matter is overly saturating the market. There is too much of it out there, and if you are a new writer, avoid it…for a while. This book may or may not have been written for the youth market (I’m thinking that it wasn’t), but readers, avid or not, need more than vampire stories to read. Even if the vampire serves as an occult Secret Service agent.

Farnsworth had a pretty good idea with this book, but it fell far short of its potential. He becomes extremely verbose where it is not needed, and short on detail and description where it would have favored the reader. I would have expected a level of suspense from a novel dealing with this subject matter-vampires, politics, paranormal activity-but there wasn’t any. The plot was very dull and dry; if a novel is judged by the number if yawns it causes, this would be at the top of the charts. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Did I like the novel? Yes and no. Yes, I liked Farnsworth’s idea. A vampire protecting the White House is a cool idea. What I did not like about it was that it involved terrorist plots, jihad, and other stuff that it didn’t need. All of that would have been perfect for a different novel. There were so many possibilities with the surface idea that I literally cringed as I forced myself to keep reading. The specific features of the plot Farnsworth added cheapened, and literally ruined, the storyline.

All in all, pass this one up-unless you have nothing else better to read on a dark and stormy night. Then, by all means, go for it.

Characteristics

This novel was not written for the youth market. It is full of adult subject matter and language. Reader beware.

Click the link to purchase your copy of Blood Oath from Amazon.com.

Posted in Action, Adventure, Christopher Farnsworth, Fantasy, Supernatural, Uncategorized, Unexplained Phenomena, United States | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron


Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron

Click the link to purchase your copy of Come and Find Me from Amazon.com.

Author: Hallie Ephron
Publisher: William Marrow
Copyright Date: 2011
Foundational Characters: Diana Highsmith, Ashley Highsmith, Daniel Schechter, Dr. Pamela David-Braverman, and Jake
Standard Rating: Y+
Reviewer Rating: 2 Stars
Available Formats: Hardcover, Kindle
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061857521
ISBN-13: 978-0061857522
Book Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
Page Count: 288
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Action, Suspense, Thriller, Technology, Adventure
Tags: Fiction, Action, Suspense, Thriller, Technology, Adventure, Kidnapping, Drugs, Alcohol

Description

“It takes a lot of chutzpah for a book reviewer to write books of her own….But Hallie Ephron…can hold her head high: She does it, and very well, too.”

—Seattle Times

A recluse who works and lives online must brave the “real world” when her sister goes missing in Come and Find Me—a gripping and ingenious novel of mystery and psychological suspense from Hallie Ephron, author of Never Tell a Lie. Writing about her sensational debut, USA Today noted, “You can imagine Hitchcock curling up with this one.” Aficionados of Rear Window, Vertigo, and North by Northwest—as well as the many fans of Harlan Coben and Mary Higgins Clark—will get a similar charge from Come and Find Me.

Computer security expert and reformed hacker Diana Highsmith has not ventured beyond her home for more than a year—not since that fateful climbing vacation in Switzerland took Daniel’s life. Haunted by the sound of Daniel’s cries echoing across the gorge as he fell, Diana cannot stop thinking about the life they’ll never have—grief that has transformed her into a recluse.

Diana doesn’t have to shut herself off com­pletely from the world, though; she and Daniel’s best friend run a thriving Internet security company. From her home, in her pajamas, Diana assesses security breaches, both potential and real, and offers clients a way to protect themselves from hackers—the kind of disruptions Diana herself used to create. Once Diana has a game plan she is able to meet with clients in OtherWorld, an Internet-based platform, using Nadia, an avatar she created for herself. Diana knows she’ll have to rejoin the “real world” eventually, but right now a few steps from her door each morning is all she can handle.

When Diana’s sister goes missing, however, she is forced to do the impossible: brave both the outside world and her own personal demons to find her sister. As one step outside leads to another, Diana soon discovers that she is following a trail fraught with danger—and uncovering a web of deceit and betrayal, both online and real-life, that threatens not only her sister’s life, but her own. (From the publisher’s website)

The Revelation

This story is about a woman named Diana who suffers from a bad case of post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety after witnessing the death of her boyfriend, Daniel, while ice climbing in Switzerland. Accompanied by Jake, Daniel’s best friend, Diana goes home and tries to pick up the pieces of her life, goes through counseling, and locks herself in the home she grew up in as a child. She turns that home into a fortress, adding multiple forms of redundant security so she will somehow feel “safe.”

Diana, Daniel, and Jake are hackers; somewhat reformed hackers. They used to hack into computer systems for the thrill of it. Then they hacked into a hospital computer system, scrambled some data, and helped kill an innocent person. After that, Diana wanted out of that business and suggested to Daniel and Jake that they clean up their act, go straight, and try to help rid the digital world of people like themselves. Then Daniel died. However, with the urging of Jake, Diana used a life insurance settlement to help Jake start a business called Gamelan.

Then Diana’s sister Ashley goes missing and Diana’s world is turned upside down—yet again. She calls on her sisters friends for help locating her sister, but to no avail. Diana spends a lot of her time in a place called Other World, an internet-based version of the real world. She calls on her Other World friends to help and they come through. Then she uncovers a secret she wasn’t supposed to know about—ever. When she gets too close to finding out the truth behind the lies, she is kidnapped, too.

On the surface, this is a run-of-the-mill mystery story. There are lies, and mystery, and intrigue. Even a little bit of investigative work. But the plot is weak and the story-telling is as dry as a desert-exposed carcass. The end of a story is one of the most critical parts, and to say that the end of Come and Find Me is lack-luster adds too much shine to an otherwise dull tale. I’m always glad to finish a book, simply because I love reading books. I also read for the sheer pleasure of reading. Gaining something from a story makes it even better. This story didn’t teach me anything. I came away from it having learned nothing; my life was completely unaffected. My life isn’t worse off after reading the book, but it also wasn’t improved.

So, my overall conclusion of Come and Find Me is that it wasn’t good. It was just okay. If this title is on your reading list, drop it down to the bottom and get to it when you get to it. There are better books out there to read first.

Characteristics

Contains mild language, inappropriate drug use, alcohol use, and thematic elements inappropriate for children under 15 years old.

Click the link to purchase your copy of Come and Find Me from Amazon.com.

Posted in Action, Adventure, Detective, Fiction, Hallie Ephron, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw


The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Girl with Glass Feet from Amazon.com.

Author: Ali Shaw
Publisher: Picador
Copyright Date: 2011
Foundational Characters: Ida Maclaird, Midas Crook, Gustav, Denver, Henry Fuwa, Carl Maulsen
Standard Rating: YA
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312680457
ISBN-13: 978-0312680459
Book Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
Page Count: 304
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Fantasy, British, Dark, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy, British, Adult Language, Alcohol use, Adult language, Dark, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance

 

Description

WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZEStrange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land. Magical winged creatures flit around the icy bogland, albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods, and Ida Maclaird is slowly turning into glass. Ida is an outsider in these parts who has only visited the islands once before. Yet during that one fateful visit the glass transformation began to take hold, and now she has returned in search of a cure.

The Girl with Glass Feet is a love story to treasure, “crafted with elegance and swept by passionate magic and the yearning for connection. A rare pleasure” (Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love). (From the publisher’s website and the back cover of the book)

The Revelation

On St. Hauda’s Land, the season is winter. It is cold, and the wind blows off of the ocean, bringing with it the smell of salt. Bogs separate the land from the ocean. The skies are almost constantly gray and overcast, presuming the arrival of rain or snow, even when the next storm may be days away. This is the setting of The Girl with Glass Feet. St. Hauda’s Land is the kind of place that you want to leave as soon as you can, and never want to return to, unless you have to.

Ida McLaird had to return. You see, her feet are turning to glass, and along with them, the rest of her body. She wants to know why she is turning to glass, and also if she can be cured. Once, during a summer visit, she heard strange talk in the town about people who had turned completely to glass. Their bodies lay in the bogs. One man, the man she returned to search for, seems to have the answers to her questions. She wants to find Henry Fuwa and ask for his help. In the mean time, Ida meets Midas, the only child of a brilliant but distant father and a recluse of a mother, whose personality is a bleak and gray as the landscape he grew up with. He is at once a photographer and a reluctant hero. He lives alone in his flat and works at a flower shop, which provides his life, and the reader, with the only real color in the story-and those are just glimpses at best. Midas finds out about what is happening to Ida’s feet, and after some coaxing, goes against everything he is made of and helps Ida figure out what needs to be done to stop the glass from taking over her body.

The Girl with Glass Feet is the winner of the 2010 Desmond Elliott Prize. Before picking up this book, I had never heard of this prize before, and I was intrigued by not only the book, but also by the prize it had won. I researched the Prize and found on its website that its purpose is to, “look for a novel of depth and breadth with a compelling narrative. The work should be vividly written and confidently realised and should contain original and arresting characters.” Robin Romm, in reviewing the novel for The New York Times, saw the novel as a disease metaphor. Ida’s purpose becomes finding a cure for her glass ailment, and Midas, though reluctantly, joins her search.

I will concede that this was an imaginative story, and it was written very well. Shaw put his A-game on when he penned the novel. However, the journey did not fully justify the destination. In other words, the narrative itself was not as entertaining as it was creative. Shaw had a really good idea, but as I seem to state over and over again, he didn’t do what he could have done with it. The narrative was about as entertaining as the bogs of St. Hauda’s Land-gray and brown and soggy all over. It took me over two months to get through this book, and it didn’t keep my attention very well while I read. I was only able to read 10 to 20 pages at a time before I wanted to move on to the rest of my day. As I read the novel, my prevailing thought was, when is something finally going to happen? Don’t get me wrong-the storyline progresses from one page to the next, but nothing really happens. I found myself getting frustrated on multiple occasions. The characters experience movement, and the setting shifts all over St. Hauda’s Land, and the narrative moves from point A to point B, but you may find, as I did, that you are two-thirds of the way through the book and ask yourself, “What the heck is going on here? Where has my time investment gone?”

In the end, I made it through the book only to discover that the ending justified (though not fully) everything that came before. Sixty pages from the end of the novel, I was almost sure there was little hope of finding any purpose in the story. Then I came across a quote that struck me as the central point of the story. Carl Maulsen says this to Midas Crook: “I think places take hold of us and we become mere parts of the landscape, taking on its quirks and follies. There are places on the mainland-perhaps you are too young to understand this-I can’t return to without feeling, without becoming, things I had thought tidied up and finished off” (262). If you find yourself reading the novel wondering what this quote has to do with the whole, you may catch glimpses along the way, but you will not fully grasp its full meaning until the very last page-literally. Until then, be patient with Midas, Ida, Henry, Carl, and their past. It will make sense soon enough.

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Girl with Glass Feet from Amazon.com.

Posted in Ali Shaw, British, Dark, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran (Translator)


The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality) from Amazon.com.

Translator: Eknath Easwaran (The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation)
Publisher: Nilgiri Press
Copyright Date: 2007
Foundational Characters: Krishna, Arjuna
Standard Rating: Y+
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars
Available Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1586380192
ISBN-13: 978-1586380199
Book Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
Page Count: 296
Genre: Non-fiction
Sub-Genre: Religion & Spirituality, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Bible, Sacred Texts, Scripture
Tags: Non-fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Bible, Sacred Texts, Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita

Description

“On this path, effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.”
—Bhagavad Gita (2:40)

The Bhagavad Gita, the “Song of the Lord,” is India’s best-known scripture. For Easwaran, it was a personal guidebook, as it was for Mahatma Gandhi.

The Bhagavad Gita opens, dramatically, on a battlefield. Prince Arjuna is on the brink of an apocalyptic war that he doesn’t want to fight – and he turns in anguish to his spiritual guide, Sri Krishna, for answers to the fundamental questions of life.

Arjuna’s struggle is profoundly modern. Easwaran’s genius is to show us that “the battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita’s subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage.” And Sri Krishna’s sublime instruction, on living and dying, working and loving, on the nature of the soul, is as relevant to readers today as it was at the dawn of Indian history.

Features

* Easwaran’s translation is accurate and accessible. Raised in the Hindu culture, he studied Sanskrit from a young age and later developed a deep love of English literature. He highlights the Gita’s key messages and conveys the haunting beauty of the verses. And readers will appreciate Easwaran’s authenticity – he lived the Gita.

* Easwaran’s introduction gives the key to the Gita’s timeless wisdom. Combining erudition with a contagious personal enthusiasm, Easwaran places the Gita in its historical context, gives a clear explanation of fundamental concepts, and brings out the universality of the Gita’s teachings.

* Includes chapter introductions, notes, and a Sanskrit glossary.

* This new edition contains a new foreword, two-color easy-to-read interior, and elegant new cover. (From the author’s website)

The Revelation

One question went through my mind over and over again while reading The Bhagavad Gita, and that is: How am I going to write a review of a book of Hindu scripture that has existed for thousands of years? With that, other questions arose:

  1. What can I tell a mostly Western audience (I’m only guessing at this), who likely knows almost nothing about Eastern religions, about a book whose title they may not be able to pronounce let alone understand?
  2. How can I, as the reviewer, help them understand that The Bhagavad Gita is worth reading, even though their religious views may not coincide with the teachings found in the Gita?
  3. How can I accomplish answering these questions in a coherent manner?

Then I set out to answer these questions, and I hope this makes sense to you.

Background

The Bhagavad Gita is considered by Hindus around the world to be a sacred text, or scripture. It is a fascinating text with a fascinating history. The Bhagavad Gita, which is also simply referred to as the Gita, is a small part of a huge Sanskrit epic called the Mahabharata, which is one of the Hindu “histories.” The other volume of the Histories is called the Ramayana. These epics can be compared in importance to The Iliad and The Odyssey. The author of the Mahabharata is said to be Vyasa, but some scholars seem skeptical. Because Vyasa is given credit for writing the Mahabharata, he is also given credit for penning The Bhagavad Gita. This only makes sense to me. Another detail scholars aren’t sure about is when The Bhagavad Gita was written, but they estimate the composition from the 5th to the 2nd century B.C.

The setting of the Gita is Kurukshetra, “the field of Kurus,” where a pivotal battle took place in the Mahabharata. Just about every child in India is raised learning about this epic, like American children grow up with fables and nursery rhymes.

Western traditions have not mingled much with Eastern traditions; most Westerners are unfamiliar with the gods of the Hindu religion. Westerners are familiar with the gods of Greece and Rome, but Hindu gods have a different, although similar, relationship with humanity. Eknath Easwaran, the translator of this edition of The Bhagavad Gita, also wrote the introduction. Because it is likely that most Western readers of The Bhagavad Gita will be unfamiliar with Hindu traditions and customs, Easwaran wrote the introduction to familiarize the Western reader with very basic Hindu beliefs, customs, and traditions so The Bhagavad Gita will be accessible and make some degree of sense.

The Chapter Introductions

The quality of this translation is superb. Easwaran’s introduction is extensive and deep. Each chapter is lead by its own introduction, written by Diana Morrison. Morrison breaks each chapter down into digestible bits, explaining what is happening as a wise teacher would his or her pupil. In some cases, the chapter introductions are actually longer than the chapter itself. Morrison’s insights were like a flashlight in a darkened room for my reading of the Gita. I am grateful they were included in this edition. Had they not been included, the length of the publication could have been cut in half, making it much shorter, but also more daunting. There are names of people and gods and places that are hard to pronounce, and not really knowing who they are would have made the reading difficult. Morrison’s introductions didn’t go so deep into the subject matter as to create a separate publication within this edition of the Gita, but they opened the door so unknowing readers would be able to enter that world, look around, and have an idea of what they were seeing.

The Bhagavad Gita is first a book of scripture covering matters of the spirit and good living, much like the Bible and Book of Mormon accomplish for Christianity, much like the Torah accomplishes for Judaism, and much like the Qur’an accomplishes for Muslims. This is where the real value of the Gita lies. Truth is truth, no matter where it is found, whether you are Christian, Hindu, or Muslim. While Christian or Muslim readers may not agree with all of the teachings found in the Gita, there are nuggets of wisdom throughout these pages.

This is my recommendation: If you have discovered that you need a jolt where religion is concerned, pick up the Gita, give it a serious read, and allow it to strengthen the beliefs you hold dear. Like I said, truth is truth, no matter where it is found.

Click the link to purchase your copy of The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality) from Amazon.com.

Posted in Author, Bible, Book Review, Eknath Easwaran, Genre, Hinduism, Non-Fiction, Religion, Sacred Texts, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment