When my son was four months old, a friend recommended Tracy’s book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems for us to learn how to deal with the frustration of his difficult sleeping. Following her technique in that book saved me and my wife from going insane.
Now that my son is two, he’s presenting a whole new set of challenges, particularly that we are not really sure how to properly discipline him so he learns good lessons. I decided this time I needed to dive in and read this book cover-to-cover, and I’m so glad I did. In a very short time I feel like I understand my son so much better, and as a result, I have far more patience with him and handle his outbursts more maturely. As a result, he is better behaved and doesn’t need to be disciplined as often! Talk about a win.
A lot of the advice in this book boils down to recognizing who your child is, respecting his or her personality, setting good boundaries and limits, and teaching self-control. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, but it’s not always easy to know how to do these things properly, and sometimes the concepts run counter to what any individual parent may be naturally inclined to do.
I recommend all of Tracy’s books for parents of infants or young children.
Rating: 5 out of 5
What if I told you Changes was only the beginning?
The majority of this series has been slowly building, increasingly exciting individual adventures that hinted at something bigger going on behind the scenes. With each installment, the bigger picture comes more and more into focus. Changes brought us a climax to the story we knew about; Cold Days is our door into the true epic that has been getting set up under our noses for the first 12 books.
There is not much I can say about the content of this novel without spoilers, except to say that from start to finish it’s nearly non-stop action and reveals. Things are very different for Harry and friends by the end, and I can see how this is leading up to the apocalyptic trilogy that Butcher claims will be coming after approximately 6 more books.
Now, to be honest, all this action left a little something to be desired for the first part of the book. I mean, we basically jump right into battle after battle, and it’s one of the first times I’ve wondered how much Butcher thought he could throw at Harry before the suspension of disbelief started to crack. The second he’s out of one mess, he’s into another seemingly unrelated one. Could all these different things be happening all at once, coincidentally, the moment Harry gets back to the real world? All I will say is that after finishing the book, I no longer have those complaints.
So what did I love most? Well the climax, of course, but not just because it was exciting and surprising, but because it, and this whole book really, show how much Butcher has been planning and how much of a master at setting up pieces of a long-term mystery he is. Knowing that his first book was written without the intent of turning it into an epic (not to mention the gold standard of the Urban Fantasy genre), it’s awesome to see how well he’s fit events even from that first book into the greater story. Never let it be said that there isn’t a crapload of skill involved in writing a good adventure series.
My final thought to anyone who has not yet started reading Cold Days: if you haven’t read Changes recently, give it a re-read before diving in. There were enough references to characters and events from that book that I often wished I hadn’t read it last two years ago. And as you read it, rest assured that it only gets better from there!
Rating: 5 out of 5
For a few years, I was a musician who attained some success, depending on your definition of the word. For those years, music was my entire life and everyone I knew was very aware of exactly what I was up to. After I left that life and pursued a more standard path, my musical history was often just a bit of trivia to my acquaintances, and on the occasions that my new friends would finally hear the music I’d created, or be told of my travels and scattered notoriety, they would express surprise that one of their friends had achieved such things. This reaction would always amuse and flatter me, because I know how skeptical I have often been of other “musician” friends as well, whose creations so often disappointed.
And so I should have known better than to be equally skeptical of a co-worker and friend who revealed to me, many years ago, that he was working on a novel. Maybe it’s because for all my own writing, I could never imagine coming up with an original story idea, let alone actually putting the effort into such a large work. Maybe it’s just because I’d never been friends with someone who wrote a book before. Whatever the reason, I never expected to see the novel finished, and when it was published, I thought I would read the first couple chapters in secret just to see if I could even make it that far; I certainly did not expect to devour the entire thing in two days.
Amontillado is a murder mystery, a romance, and a tragedy, in equal parts. It is the story of Jacob and Bree, whose marriage has withered to nothing under the pressures of life and art; of Marcus, who sets his calculating and malevolent sights on Bree, and of Daniel, whose devotion to his friends gets him tangled up in more danger than he believes possible. The suspense is carefully cultivated as the story is told, with the characters themselves discussing literature in such a way that it caused me to guess at different possibilities, not only within the realm of what might naturally happen, but what tricks an author might employ in diverting the reader from guessing the truth. And most satisfying, the final resolution does not depend on a clever and contrived twist, but on a natural unfolding of events that nonetheless are not easily figured out.
The biggest compliment I can pay, however, is that this story got me thinking about my own marriage, about choices I’ve made and what effect they might have had that I was never aware of. There is some great insight tucked away in this story, the kind not concocted on behalf of the characters, but wisdom that the author has learned himself and deftly worked into the story for his readers’ benefit.
I have but one complaint about the book, and that is the careful use of language which is quite welcome in the narration, but leaves some of the dialog feeling too scripted. Even with characters who are highly educated lovers of literature, their perfect turns of phrase do not always accurately represent the way most people speak. I wondered for some time whether the setting was modern or historic, but certain references did confirm it to be current. This may simply be the author’s style, and it did not bother me much as I got further along, but it was a little off-putting at first, and I’m glad I forgave long enough to give the story itself a chance. I will admit that however unrealistic the voices can be at times, they are awfully fun to listen to.
I cannot remember the last book I read so fervently, and I am proud of my friend for creating such an engaging tale. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery or drama.
I first tried to read the Hobbit in high school, but found it too childish and abandoned it. I decided to pick it up again in preparation for the film that’s about to be released.
I dare say this may be the worst book I’ve ever read. To write a review would be to justify to all the fanboys why I think it is complete garbage, and I want to be done with thinking about this book too much to bother going through it and describing all of my complaints in detail, so I will simply say this: It is poorly plotted, poorly written, there is not a single likable character, and deus ex machina is employed to such a degree that I would have never believed possible. Even the one single real triumph in the book is made by a character that no one cares about, and never have I seen such literal use of the term “a little birdie told me”, particularly in such a way that ruins what little excitement this terrible book offered.
The only three reasons I can imagine for its popularity are:
1) Nostalgia (how many Saturday morning cartoons have been proven to be truly awful when viewed again through adult eyes?)
2) Because most people reading it have very little experience with High Fantasy, and so the worldbuilding, races, magic, etc. are interesting enough to counteract the awful story.
3) Because of its relation to Lord of the Rings, which I’ve heard is far better, but I’m not exactly excited to ever read another word Tolkein wrote at this point.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
King’s first collection of short stories is, nearly without exception, divided neatly into two halves. The first half is chock full of cheesy, lame stories that are mediocre at best and pointless or awful at worst; only “The Boogeyman” stands out, a traditional but well-done story about a monster in a child’s closet. I wonder how many people have abandoned this book based on the weakness of the first half, to never find all the seriously spooky and engaging stories in the second half.
"The Ledge", "Quitters, Inc.", "I Know What You Need", "Children of the Corn", "The Man Who Loved Flowers", and "One for the Road" all help make this collection shine, some being the typical supernatural horror you’d expect from King, and some more like short thrillers.
Interestingly, the standout story in this book is “The Last Rung on the Ladder”, which is not a horror story at all, but is instead a tragic drama the likes of which King has been writing more of in the later years of his career.
As a collection, this book is disappointing, but the individual stories mentioned here make it worth checking out.
The premise of the story is simple and classic King: two siblings, driving across the country, hear a lost child calling for help from within a field of tall grass. They decide to investigate, but there’s something supernatural and malicious going on in this particular field. It’s a nasty story, suspenseful and gruesome, and though not the most offensive stuff King’s ever written, it’s close. Of course, that’s exactly the kind of story most people would hope for from these two authors. It’s definitely worth the read, just not over lunch.
Now, you know who Stephen King is, but you might not already know that his son, Joe Hill, is following in dad’s footsteps and is already an accomplished horror author. It’s my personal opinion that Hill has already shown the potential to overtake his father very soon, in skill if not in notoriety. In addition to two fantastic novels, a book of chilling short stories, and arguably the best graphic novel series in existence, he has also been credited with providing King with a superior ending to his recent time-travel book, 11/22/63. King fans know that his books tend to be long and engaging, but his endings are very hit-or-miss, so Hill’s contributions are incredibly valuable in this regard, and father-and-son collaborations like this one can only help both authors hone their craft further.
Regarding the narration of the audiobook by Stephen Lang, it’s tolerable at best. He’s not a very good actor, nor does he pull off female or child voices at all, and every bit of dialog is read in the same slow and plodding manner that he reads the narration; no emotion, no urgency, just reading words on a page rather than trying to bring a story to life. Luckily the story itself is good enough to let this slide.
Rating: 4 out of 5
I had some problems with this book, mainly that it seems overly simple and shallow, but maybe that is the point. I did begin to enjoy it near the end, and think that the biography of his life which closes the book would better serve as the opening, to allow the reader to know what kind of life the author led before reading the miscellaneous letters and sayings he wrote.
Bill Hybels wrote just today that he reads this annually, and that today was the 40th time he did so. I may have to return to it myself in a year’s time and see if my opinion of it improves.
Rating: 3 out of 5
A good book, with chapters laid out to describe the different areas in one’s life that should be affected by faith in Christ and what each should look like. I certainly would have fallen under the title of Christian Atheist in previous years, but reading this book helped confirm for me that that is no longer the case. As such, i didn’t connect with or learn from this book as much as I had hoped, but it’s still a good read, and might be of great help to someone struggling to understand the fruit that faith should be producing in his own life.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The first two books in the Wheel of Time series did not impress me much. They were good enough to keep reading the series (my primary goal is to read everything Brandon Sanderson writes, and so I must read these 11 books to get to his), but I was not terribly invested in the characters and the story seemed to drag.
This book really picked up the interest level for nearly all of the main characters. Rand, ostensibly the primary character (and the one the book is named after, oddly enough) is nearly absent, but I didn’t mind one bit. The rest of the characters really bloomed in this book and all of their storylines were exciting and unique.
For the first time, I am quite looking forward to diving into the next book in the series.
Rating: 5 out of 5
This is now part of my short list of “must-read” books on Christian living.
Let’s face it, everybody sins. And for most of us, that doesn’t just mean those innocuous little sins, if there really is any such thing; it’s hardly uncommon for a well-meaning, God-fearing Christian to have secret sin habits that they are terrified their fellow church members might find out about. For some it might be something overt like sexual immorality, for others it might be pride. Whatever your sin habit is, it’s holding you back from experiencing the freedom you have available in Christ. Sadly, as long as we all want to pretend we’re not really “that bad” and are afraid to confess our sin, nothing is going to change.
Getting to No is an incredible book which clearly details how so many of us fall into sinful habits, why we keep them, and how to overcome them. Through practical application of basic Biblical truths, we are taught what thoughts and attitudes need to change and what steps we need to take in order to overcome these habits. To some of us, much of this information may be new and groundbreaking, but really it is just a matter of understanding what Christ’s sacrifice did for us, and how God created us to have relationship with himself and our fellow believers.
We are never going to be free of temptation, that is simply part of being human, but overcoming it is possible as long as we are willing to trust in more than just our own willpower. If you let him, God will use those temptations to strengthen you, to build your faith and your testimony, and turn you into a new creation. This book will help you get started.
Rating: 5 out of 5
SIDE NOTE: My copy of this book is called “Winning the Inner War: How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit” and differs slightly from the title given here, but they are essentially the same book.