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Books: How To Be Happy: My Child – My Friend by Helena Angel

As is often the case, I received this book free for the purposes of review. This time because it’s on offer from Amazon for exactly nothing until March 24th of 2016.

The nutshell on this book is pretty simple. It’s a brief (20 minute) parenting book that boils down pretty easily to the idea that parenting should be about letting your children, within bounds, be free to figure out who they are and what they should become as adults.

To the positive, at a high level the book is reasonably correct in its assertions. It cautions strongly against the twin parenting issues of trying to live your child’s life for them and that overly passive parenting style in which the TV does most of the child rearing. The intentions of the book are positive and strong and would benefit some of society’s most extreme parents.

Unfortunately, there’s much to be said to the negative. Firstly, the title is misleading and starts things out on a poor footing. Children should not be looked upon as friends. The active and sometimes corrective relationship that defines good parenting is not compatible with the concept of friendship as commonly used in America. Also, while the book is well intentioned, I’m not sure that the majority of parents are going to glean anything new from it. Those on the edges will find something new to them but most parents already know what do to be at least this good at parenting. They just choose not to do it.

From a technical and writing perspective, the book is a bit of a shambles. It’s littered with typographical and grammar issues and the formatting is wobbly at best. The author has invested in some stock photos that do serve to break things up a bit but it falls pretty short of professional. If I had paid money for this book (anything over a buck) then I’d be fairly cranky about it.

In summary, there’s some good, but basic, parenting information in this little guide and it’s not a complete waste of time but it could use some tidying up and doesn’t go much into depth. It merely skims across the surface of this very important topic.

 


Rob Slaven

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Review of Hearing Thoughts by Anthony Diffley

As is often the case I received this book free for the purposes of review but I’m absolutely candid about it below because potential buyers deserve to know what it is they’re about to pay money for.

The nutshell on this novel is pretty well summed up by the back cover. Normally I would consider it a spoiler to reveal so much about the plot but since it IS on the back… Essentially, a high-power attorney is kidnapped by aliens and now can hear other people’s thoughts. Thus the title. Not exactly massively original really.

In most cases I try to frame a book by its positives and its negatives. In this case though I can’t really find anything even remotely positive to say about it. The story is trite and has been already been explored by dozens of other authors. The writing is deplorable and the dialog reminds me of a conversation you might hear in a Dick and Jane novel. I guffawed aloud when grown men started talking about their “tummies” and many of the scenes defy any knowledge of how the adult world works. It reminds me strongly of the videos you see in which a small child describes what they think their parents do all day at work.

In summary, while I always hate to take it to new authors with such vigor I can’t be party to anyone actually considering paying money for this. I’d encourage Mr. Diffley to keep at it and try a different idea with a new copy editor because the one you have has failed you terribly.

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Book Reviews: Lady of the Dead: Night World Series by Gretchen S. B.

As is often the case I received this book in exchange for an honest review but despite that kindness my candid thoughts appear below.

The nutshell-no-spoilers-summary on this one is tough because it spans several genres that don’t typically tend to cohabitate between the covers of a single book. It’s part crime drama, part action adventure and part John Edwards psychic fiction. One book features the undead, gritty cops, fierce warriors, werecreatures, immortals and spirits all in the backdrop of modern day Northwest America.

On the positive side, the author certainly isn’t afraid to mix things up. She’s brought together a lot of otherwise dissonant strings and isn’t afraid to weave them together in new and creative ways. There’s a lot of creativity evident in this book and the writer’s textual style isn’t half bad and is fairly devoid of typos and textual errors.

Sadly, the negative side gives the positive a run for its money. The overarching story is weak and the author introduces so many various characters and new types of creatures in her book that it seems forced. One barely wraps one’s mind around one group of people before another one is introduced and then either included for the duration or suddenly dropped. It’s as if the author tried to force several longer books into one shorter one. The whole story lacks patience and pacing is barely readable. The only way I managed to force myself to the end was hope that all the creative energy would somehow pay off. It didn’t.

The author skims over so much at such a high level that I thought for a long time I was reading a YA novel. That was until I got to the EXTREMELY graphic sex scenes at which point any misunderstanding about that point was entirely lost. The author’s only real attempt during the story to add any level of detail to any interaction is in those scenes of copulation.

In summary, I can’t recommend this book to anyone but there is hope for the author. Given a bit more time and patience Gretchen could go far but this one particular example of her work is pretty poor.

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Book Reviews: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

As is usual I received this book free for the purpose of review, this time from “Shelf Awareness.” Despite that abundant kindness, I’m utterly honest in my assessment.

The book describes itself as a thriller but I’m not completely sold on that assignment of genre. Really it’s more of a personal/crime drama. Our protagonist gets into some pretty tight spots and has to do absolutely anything she can to get out of them including… well, crime.

To the positive, the book is smoothly and well written. The text drips off the page like soft cream and you can get lost in the prose after only a few pages. The pacing is fast and pulls you along very steadily but never really reaches any huge crescendo. As you read you’re immediately plunged into a cloud of mystery on the very first page that’s not entirely resolved until very nearly the end.

To the negative, many of the plot-level details were rather implausible. Our deliciously strong protagonist pulls herself out of tighter and tighter spots until you can’t quite believe that any of it was possible. It is only the author’s writing skill that makes this palatable. In the hands of a lesser wordsmith the plot would have fallen to pieces like overcooked fish. As it stands, you take the gravy along with the lumps and never mind a bit.

In summary, this is a book for readers who like a strong and clearly empowered female protagonist who gets the job done but doesn’t feel hindered by the saddle of 100% credibility. “The Passenger” is a book to be gobbled down in one delicious bite on a cold winter day off. It’s not going to win any literary awards but it will keep you mentally engaged and interested in what’s going to happen on the next page.

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Book Reviews: Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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I received this book free for review from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.

The nutshell on this book is that it’s a fairly standard one of the genre in which a young person finds that they are somehow special or exceptional and must overcome some set of trials in order to achieve an elevated status in the world. Just think Harry Potter and the like.

This is a YA novel so I consider three simple questions when evaluating it. The first is to ask if I there’s any reason I wouldn’t want my kids to read it. I have a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to sex and drugs and this one is clean as a whistle in that respect. Kids won’t pick up any negative lessons and they certainly won’t learn any “new” words. For those that are of a deeply religious bent, do know there is magic and the like.

One small word of caution, however, that requires a non-specific spoiler. Our hero goes about his journey and comes to a conclusion that from the perspective of those not in the know, looks exactly like getting burned alive. I would not want readers to somehow get the impression that the best way to escape a troubling family situation has any resemblance whatsoever to actual death. I think the risk is fairly small but it is something to note.

The second question is to ask if there’s any reason I would want my kids to read it. I love when a book teaches a lesson and this one does a fair job of demonstrating the virtues of loyalty and dedication to a goal. While I don’t think these themes are necessarily front and center to the narrative they are present and certainly not overly intrusive to the story.

The last question is to ponder whether kids will actually want to read it. In this case, I think the story is a rich one and it gives the reader plenty to enjoy and look forward to on each succeeding page. My only reservation is that kids might get a tad confused because the book seems to lack continuity in places. I won’t go into specifics but it feels like the book has been cut down from a longer version and sometimes references to previous events creep in that were edited out. I can’t validate this, of course, but a few times I asked myself, “When did THAT happen?”

In summary, reading this as an adult I found it pretty entertaining and it is a solid entrant in the YA market. The aspect that stands out for me most is the ending. The author closed this story in a way that balanced closure and uncertainty brilliantly. I’d be intensely interested in reading a sequel; this could bloom into a wonderful series of books akin to Pern.

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Book Reviews: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

24331115I picked this book up at a local big-box retailer on sale for 50% off. More interestingly it was a limited signed edition on sale for 50% off so that should have been a clue.

The nutshell on this book is that it follows Ada down the rabbit hole in a parallel with the old Alice affair of which we’ve all read. Alternating chapters detail the goings on above ground as Lydia and family go in search of both the girls.

To the positive side, the book does have a lot of the flavor of the original. It’s not afraid to throw around heaps of erudite vocabulary and will send even the most solid vocabularist to their dictionary at least a couple of times. We’re also treated along the way to visits from most of our favorite characters from the original though their appearances in the story are almost absurdly brief.

To the negative, After Alice seems to have a lot to say that it takes a VERY long time to start to care about. The above-ground chapters of the story are, for half the book, rather pestilential. It feels like an unwanted interruption and unnecessary padding. About page 120 it becomes possible to care about Lydia and her house guests but until that point I found it difficult to resist the temptation to skip every alternating chapter.

In summary, for the die-hard fan, this offers a very small addition to the milieu of Alice but it comes at a high cost. On some level I feel that there’s more there if you just inspect it closely enough so I’ll be tucking this away on the shelf for a later and closer read but to the more casual consumer of books this one is one to be avoided at most costs.

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SNAKES: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos – A very basic introduction for the youngest readers (3/5)

Click the cover to visit on Amazon

As usual I received this book for free for the purposes of review; this time from the author directly. Despite this kindness I give my scrupulously honest opinion below.

In a nutshell and quite obviously, this is a very brief and very simple book about snakes. The content is appropriate for any age but only the very youngest readers will find this worthwhile. Book formatting runs along pretty simple lines with a picture at the top of each page and a paragraph of text under it.

On the positive side, the book is completely accessible. Even if your child has never seen a snake before in their lives this book will make sense. It assumes nothing about the potential reader and begins at the very beginning.

To the negative side, the pictures in this book are pretty tiny. Even on an larger HD Kindle they’re hardly more than thumbnails. They look pretty high def but the way they’re laid out in the book you practically have to put your nose on the screen before you can see much. Lastly, the writing is reasonably professional though it does have a tendency to interrupt itself in the middle of a sentence “wait, what?!” which might be confusing to newer readers.

In summary, this is a good little book to have around but it does have a few foibles. Despite that, you can’t beat the price this week while it’s free on Amazon. It’ll certainly keep at least one child entertained for a few minutes while you cook dinner.


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