Book Reviews

Naturally Better – Kristen Morrison

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , |

I almost didn’t finish this book. Kristen Morrison makes me feel totally inadequate, she is the best mother around and totally puts me to shame. I was feeling incredibly inadequate and depressed about it, but I managed to soldier on and I’m glad I did.

Morrison was a fashion designer and designing a range of women’s wear for pregnant women when the family decided to have another child. Gryffin was born with Down’s Syndrome and Morrison decided to give up her career and spend her time researching the best ways to help him and then putting them all into place. With a loving, but often absent, husband and two very helpful girls, Morrison put together a programme and then put it into action, she continued her research and continued changing the programme as it needed as well as putting together a medical team consisting mostly of alternative approaches to medicine. At the end of the book Gryffin is three and a half and has the outcomes of a normal child for his age; except he can read.

Morrison sent me this book to review and I’d read her website before I agreed to this so I had some idea of what to expect, but while reading the book I was totally taken aback by the enormity of the task she’d set herself. When Gryffin was born there were very few cases of positive outcomes for Down’s Syndrome people, Morrison was told to buy a decent television and ensure Gryffin was comfortable, it’s such a good thing she didn’t listen. She and her mother spent enormous amounts of time on the internet combing through so much chaff to find the wheat. She was not medically trained and had to learn and understand many, many medical terms. She had to learn and understand the programmes she was putting into place and in so many cases she had to devise her own programmes and document them. Gryffin has a regime that would daunt most people and he just meets it all head-on as does the rest of the family. The older girls helped out a lot and their school friends would come around and help fill in the gaps in the programme.

So, that’s the content of the book and the content just blows me away. I don’t think I can say enough nice things about it. Morrison has defined most of the medical terminology she uses, she has written in simple language so anyone can understand what they’ve done and she’s written it all quite simply and in a straightforward manner. She’s given examples of the programmes and detailed the medication/dietary supplements both she and Gryffin took. There is one little problem and that is the editing, it would benefit from a good editor but it’s still quite easy to follow and understand. I can honestly say I understand the problems families with Down’s Syndrome people face far more than I did before.

I’m going to recommend this book for anyone, not just for parents who are faced with the challenges that life holds for those with a Down’s Syndrome baby. I think it’s about time we all learned a bit more respect for these families.

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Dracula – The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

Posted on 16 July 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews, Guest Blogger | Tags: , , |

Here’s an interesting thought. I handed my copy of this book to my 22 year old nephew and asked him to write a review of it. He emailed to me today and so I get to share it with you. I do have to warn you he’s toned it down a bit, I can’t share with you what he really said to me.

I read Dacre Stoker’s book and after finishing, my first thoughts were “What a waste of time.” By itself it’s fairly good, well written, with the characters well defined. However as a sequel to Dracula, it lacked a certain something, and followed the really annoying modern trend of having no absolute Evil, but rather misunderstood beings fighting another being that was evil, yes, but not sheer unadulterated Badness.

If this had been a stand alone novel, I would have liked it, but it’s not. It was a disappointment, and I spent a lot of the time reading it wishing I could shout at either the characters or the author.

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Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income – Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

Posted on 9 July 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , |

This book is the beginner’s guide to blogging, when to do it, how to do it, how to make money but not what to write. It is great for the beginner or the almost beginner.

I found this book to be really useful and there’s one major problem…I didn’t read it in front of the computer and do all of the exercises and research while reading so I’ll have to read it again. I read this book with two things in mind. The first thing in my mind was this blog, I really want to make it look better and make it easier for people to navigate as well as making it much easier on the eye. The second thing was another blog I have in mind. Being my second blog I’m trying to do the research first to ensure there actually is a market for it and to ensure I do it right. This book is perfect for that as it guides the beginner to the websites where you can do the research that counts and this is why I say you need to read it in front of your computer so you can stop and do the research. Don’t know if I’ll do the other blog as I have a lot more research but if I do start it up I’ll mention it here.

I bought this book directly from Darren Rowse, himself, at a media conference, but you can see more information here as well as clicking on the link to buy it.

If you’re worried by typos then be warned as there are a couple in this book, but it compared very favourably with one of Brad Sugars books which I had to stop reading fairly early on, there were just too many typos and I couldn’t focus on the content. This book is much better and I’m sure the 3rd edition will be better still. It’s a good read, easy language and well set out with lots of links and places to go to sign up for useful information. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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When only Death will do

Posted on 30 June 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

What happens when Death takes an apprentice? Thanks to Sir Terry Pratchett you can find out. Mort by Sir Terry Pratchett is the story of Death and his apprentice, Mort.

Mort is not very good at anything, he tends to think too much about things and his father takes him to the hiring fair on Hogswatch Eve in the hopes someone would pick him up as an apprentice, as it turns out that someone is Death. There are very few books where Death is an active participant and this is one of them. He talks slowly, in capitals and is trying to understand humans with very little success. On this night he comes down to the hiring fair and hires Mort. Everything is okay for a while until Death gives him a chance to work on his own for one night when his feelings get the better of him and he ‘kills’ the wrong person. History must be given an chance to work and so chaos ensues.

I love this book. I can see why my friends aren’t so excited about it as everything seems to work out for the best with Death manipulating time and the Gods to make certain. I have to admit to a certain amount of bias as I really like Death, he has a heart of gold and really means well, in this book we see him trying to understand fun and what it is we do in order to enjoy ourselves; it’s a nice unbiased look at people and questions why we do these things.

Terry Pratchett Challenge 2010

Terry Pratchett Challenge 2010

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Rindercella

Posted on 28 June 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: |

Yesterday I listened to the reading of a lovely little children’s book called Rindercella. It was read by Mary Bryant from MLOC Productions Inc. She’s a talented reader and the book was quite lovely, it took a lot of concentration as it’s a re-writing of the popular story, Cinderella, but I had fun. This reading was part of a lovely afternoon of fun and music put on by MLOC, they’re putting on Annie in November so you can book your tickets and get their talent firsthand.

Back to Rindercella. I’m sure you all know the story. She’s pushed into service by her sugly isters and denied attendance to the bancy fall. Her gairy fodmother appears and sends her to the fall. She slopped her dripper and was eventually found by the prandsom hince and they lived heverly ever hapwards.

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Rocky & Gawenda – Michael Gawenda

Posted on 20 June 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , |

I picked up this book with some small amount of trepidation as well as a little excitement. Michael Gawenda is my cousin’s uncle and I must have seen and probably spoken to him when I was young but I don’t actually recall doing so. I was trepidacious about reading a book written by someone so close to me and excited as I know his background and I expected him to be a fairly good writer. I was not disappointed, the writing was polished and professional and has a lovely use of words, I really appreciated Gawenda’s word usage. I has to reread many parts as I found myself thinking there was a typo as it just didn’t look right, but on rereading I found I was just putting the pauses or the emphasis in the wrong place and when I changed the way I read it the passage meant something entirely different…it was delightful. I was particularly taken with the chapters written by his children, Chasky and Evie, as the writing was a completely different style to Gawenda, it was great to see the difference in writing between the generations and to get a different view of him and his interactions with his dogs.

The book was originally published as a blogon the Crikey website and only some of the entries were deemed suitable for publication in book formatha. It is composed of the things that occurred to him while he was walking his dog, Rocky and covered so many different topics. Gawenda posted his last entry on 18th November 2009, he is still around and I’m sure we’ll see him doing other things, just not posting on his blog.

Last weekend I was at Limmud Oz, a Festival of Jewish Learning and Culture. It was an exciting weekend and was jam-packed full of fabulous presentations. One of the sessions was taken up by a Media Q and A, just like the programme on ABC1 but with Jews who work in the media as the panel, one of whom was Gawenda. I was still in the middle of this book and took it with me although I’m still trying to figure out why. I’m sure I’ve already discussed that I’m generally not interested in signatures and I feel it would have been a little crass for me to hold it out to him asking for his signature so as to increase the selling value. I was within earshot when he spoke to a friend of his who asked about his book and I could have easily pulled it out in time and popped over there but I didn’t.

I do think I’ve been totally mixed up by the internet’s social media. The Media Q and A took about an hour and during most of that time I was wanting to refresh my screen so I could check out what other people were saying on Twitter. I generally don’t watch the ABC1 programme on TV, Q and A, as the other members of my house want to watch other things but I do watch it on Twitter and it’s most amusing reading what other people think of the programme. If you’re interested you can check it out yourself using the hash tag #qanda I particularly missed Leslie Cannold who regularly comments on the number of men and women on the panel, she would have had a field day as we had one woman and four men.

I will have a couple of other sessions to write about in the future when I’ve had time to idigest them and look over my notes. They were not easy sessions to attend as you’ll find out in due course and I hope you’ll stay tuned in here to find out more details, but it could be a while.

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The Princess and the Frog

Posted on 30 May 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , |

I was sent this movie to review and asked a friend to come over with her young son as my kids are in the wrong demographic and I wanted to get a young person’s take on it.

This movie was loosely based on The Frog Prince originally written by the Brothers Grimm. You know the story line with The Frog Prince…prince turned into frog and needs princess to kiss him to turn him back, yes? This movie was rather turned around and I liked it. The prince is turned into a frog and needs a princess to kiss him to turn him back, which is fine, but there aren’t any princesses around and the girl he thinks is a princess, isn’t. She kisses him anyway and is turned into a frog, this is the story of how they’re turned back into humans. While looking for a way to change back into human form they make some friends in the form of Louis, an alligator and Ray, a firefly.

Every good Disney story needs a villain and Keith David obliges with the voice for Dr. Facilier. There are also shadows who can attack the humans and the animals, there’s other animals helping the frogs and some lovely singing. Anika Noni Rose does the voice of our heroine, Tiana, and has a lovely singing voice. Bruno Campos voices our hero, Prince Naveen and Oprah Winfrey voices Tiana’s mother, Eudora.

There are a number of issues dealt with in this movie. It’s okay to have a dream, but wishing won’t make it come true, you really need to work at it. What you need is not always what you want. Other issues they deal with are death, funerals and a concept of heaven.

There is a little violence. Some is rather slapstick, in that Prince Naveen gets slapped flat with a book, twice, with a book titled, The Frog Prince. Some men are hunting frogs for their legs and there is some violence there until one of the frogs starts talking, at which point the men row away at top speed. When Tiana is a frog she is grabbed by the shadows and my friend’s young son was rather frightened by this scene.

Other things you need to know about this movie. It’s set in New Orleans in the 1920s and the hero and heroine are not white, they are both coloured and Tiana is patronised quite severely due to her gender and skin colour. We both looked at each other with pleasure as it is such a change to have both lead characters of colour.

Yes, I liked the movie. I found it quite enjoyable, it was really good to see stereotypes challenged in a way that young kids can understand. I liked the songs and the animation was nicely done.

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Embers – Laura Bickle

Posted on 27 May 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , |

I was fortunate enough to get this book from a fellow blogger TezMillerOz.

Embers - Laura Bickle

Anya is an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department while moonlighting with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, and suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting fires to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders.

This is Laura Bickle’s first book and I can’t wait for the second one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There’s fantasy, gritty reality in downtown Detroit, a familiar of the best kind and the most gorgeous ghosts, I particularly liked the librarian who had to stay as she had so many books to read. I didn’t like the sex scene, maybe it’s just me not liking these sort of things in my books or maybe it’s because it showed how little self-control Anya had is something I can’t tell you. The scene itself was nicely written but I don’t get why a character who is usually so strong in so many ways gives in to temptation on this one occasion. Most of the other characters are well written and almost jump out of the page.

It’s not the sort of book I would have picked up if I’d seen it in a shop or a library as I don’t generally read paranormal, but I’m glad I did read it. It is well put together with a nice progression and is certainly a page turner. At one point with very little to go I had to see how many pages were left to see if I could afford the time to sit and finish, unfortunately there were too many pages so it had to wait.

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The Enemy – Charlie Higson

Posted on 17 May 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , |

Before I head into writing a few words about this book I feel you deserve to know why I haven’t been writing much lately. I’m having the odd trouble with my website and have been spending a lot of time trying to fix it up behind the scenes to ensure customers don’t have any problems with it. Things are progressing well, although somewhat more slowly than I’d expected. I hope to have everything right by this weekend, but until then my writing might suffer. I’m trying to ensure I spend enough time on Twitter and Facebook but this is at the expense of some other forums. Just before this happened I did manage to sign up as a Supporting Member of AussieCon4, I hope to be able to pay the full amount by July as I’d really like to attend. There’s exciting things happening in the Australian science fiction and fantasy writers world and I’m going to be on the periphery of it. I’ll give you more information in due course. Heading into the book now, promise.

This is one of those books I got through Twitter. Penguin were good enough to send it to me when I pointed out a typo in their online book extract during a competition. This book is set in post-apocalyptic London. The premise of the story is that every person over the age of 14 has been struck down with a deadly disease. The lucky ones die quickly, the unlucky live on with few brains just wanting to eat meat, they don’t discriminate; dogs and children are both on the menu. We don’t know what caused the disease and we don’t know what happens when people turn 14. This story shows us some of the children one year after the disease first strikes. We see it from several points of view, kids in charge, kids not in charge, boys and girls. We see what sort of person they need to lead them now and what qualities they must have in order to get their charges through this dreadful time. This is mostly from the point of view of a group of 50-60 kids who have holed up in a place called Waitrose only venturing out to find food. One day a boy comes in and says there is a group of kids building a better life in Buckingham Palace. So, off they go to Buckingham Palace with their weapons. Yes, they do make it there but it’s not the end of the story.

I have so many questions about this book and I don’t know where to start. Many of them won’t ever be answered as the story couldn’t ever go there but some of them will most likely be answered in sequels. I can’t talk knowledgably about the sequels as I can’t find anything on the web and the only mention is in the back of the book. The Enemy Is Waiting is due to come out some time this year and I will be waiting with bated breath for it as I need some answers.

Charlie Higson is a talented writer who knows how to keep the tension well and truly tight. I’m not really a reader of horror books, I have read some in my time, classics such as Dracula and the first official sequel, Dracula the Undead, some Stephen King and various other horror authors so I do have some idea of what makes a good horror book. Yes, I even saw Alien, but that was in a movie double immediately following a zombie movie so I actually laughed during Alien as it just wasn’t scary in comparison to the zombies. The Enemy lays it on the line, it tells you exactly what to be scared of and then details it again and again and again without ever letting go. The characters are believable and the situations seem credible. We are told of what happened at the beginning of the disease and it harked back to Lord of the Flies (a terrifying book) but also gives us hope by telling us that the behaviour changed when the adults started killing the kids.

Oh, and that typo? It’s not in the book.

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Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett

Posted on 11 May 2010. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , |

Polly Perks needs to find her brother, he had enlisted in the army and hasn’t been heard from for a while. The best thing for her to do is to join the army but it’s an offence for women to wear trousers or be in the army so she cuts off her hair and pretends to be a boy. I won’t tell you if Polly finds her brother, but she finds herself and a whole lot more during her sojourn in the army.

I was reading this as part of the Terry Pratchett 2010 Reading Challenge. I couldn’t help remembering The Second Australian Discworld Convention Nullus Anxietas 2. Some of our members got together and created costumes so they could become The Monstrous Regiment. They were talking about it on the forum and my two daughters were part of it so I knew all about it. Two weeks prior to the actual convention we were still scratching around for an opening ceremony and I had an idea. Some people cringe when I have an idea but this one seemed to strike a chord (probably an A flat) and I was given the go ahead. I wrote a rough script and the lady who was doing Sergeant Jackrum just happened to be on our committee and sort of in charge of the Regiment so she was charged with asking her team and keeping it all hush hush. They all agreed and the idea took hold. We actually had a man playing Lieutenant Blouse and he’s pretty good with a script so he took my rough script and fleshed it out a bit. Fast forward to the actual opening night and they march in on cue and take a turn around the tables. Unfortunately, my planning didn’t include a video camera to capture it for posterity which is incredibly sad as it was just so good. They also took out the prize for their costumes on the Saturday night.

I do actually have a few words to say about this book. It does have a message about religion and how sometimes they can be really strict with no reasoning behind the strictness. There is also a message about women being just as capable as men and sometimes needing to be twice as good in order to prove themselves. I think the biggest message is about war and how silly it really is. I really enjoyed this book, certainly I got more enjoyment out of it this time round. Having seen the costumes I was more able to visualise them in the forest and see how silly they were.

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