Book Review: "Lost" by Sarah Prineas

Lost (Magic Thief, #2)Lost by Sarah Prineas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Lost", the second book in The Magic Thief series, picks up right after the first book ends. Conn is still a wizard, but without his magic loci he cannot do any spells. Feeling lost and empty, Conn attempts to do magic using pyrotechnics - and by "pyrotechnics", I mean explosions.

The action and characters in this book work for me, as the plot moves along at a nice, believable pace. I like how the author keeps everyone true to form, but allows for the characters to change and grow as the story moves forward. I especially like that Conn manages to bother those in charge by being right about matters in which they want him to be wrong.

For those who haven't read the first book, the main portion of "Lost" is written from Conn's point of view. But the author, Sarah Prineas, lets the reader see into other character's heads through letters and diary entries. I like this format, as it gives me a bit more information about what is going on in a believable way.

I recommend The Magic Thief series from both kids who enjoy reading fantasy to adults who don't mind getting books in the Young Adult section of the library.

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Book Review: "Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum Potential" by Daniel G. Amen

Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum PotentialMagnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum Potential by Daniel G. Amen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, my disclaimers:

1. I did not read the entire book cover to cover. I used this book as a reference book to look up information.

2. I really give the book three and a half stars, but I'm not sure how to show that on GoodReads.

A few months ago, I read an article on line about ANTS - automatic negative thoughts - and how they plague (mostly) women. As I read the article, I saw myself, my friends, and my family in the descriptions of how these ANTS infect the brain with negativity and self-doubt.

So I began to research the phenomena, and stumbled across this book while looking for a different book. "Magnificent Mind at Any Age" shows how the physical structures of the brain reflect our lives in terms of damage, and how that damage in turn effects our lives. By breaking this circle of negative reinforcement, we can make our lives better.

As one of the ways to improve your thinking, the author discusses ANTS and how to deal with them. But he also covers lots of other areas in which a person can improve their brain.

I only gave the book three and a half stars because I cannot justify a higher score without reading more of the book. And because what I read leaves me with the nagging suspicious that the author somehow gets a kickback from people who sell fish oil supplements.

But if you are looking to improve your mind and are willing to take fish oil pills, then this is definitely the book for you.

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The Mentality of Group Punishment, and Why It Fails to Discipline

Clipart of a country school house with a bell in the town that rings to bring in the children from recess, Click here to get more Free Clipart at ClipartPal.comLet me present a scenario to you.  Your kids come home from school, bummed and complaining about how much they hate it.  You ask them what happened, as thoughts about bullies or worse flit through you mind.

"I missed recess today!" you hear wailed, righteous indignation ringing through your child's voice. "And I didn't even do anything!  A group of other kids were loud during reading, so the whole class lost recess today!"

At first, you breathe a sigh of relief as visions of therapy sessions float away, but then you start to think about it.  What do you do?  Do you ask the teacher about it?  And if she agrees that is what happened, what do you do then?  Do you tell her you disapprove of group punishment?  Do you ask the teacher for special treatment for your child?  Or do you ask the principal for a different teacher?

I can tell you that asking for a different teacher is generally not the right answer, because almost all teachers use group punishment when too many kids are not behaving.  In fact, I don't think my kids' have had a single teacher that doesn't use group punishment.  To find out why, I have asked several teachers in the past why they use group punishment instead of calling out the inappropriately behaving kids.  The answers vary, but the top four answers run along the lines of:

  1. the entire class was misbehaving as far as the teacher could see,
  2. they don't have the time to stop and punish only the misbehaving kids, 
  3. they don't know which child or children acted with unacceptable behavior,
  4. or they are trying to use peer pressure to enforce good behavior.
The first reason is the only one that makes sense to me.  If all but one or two children in a class are misbehaving, I completely understand why a teacher would punish the class.  After all, teachers are human, and it's entirely possible for them to miss seeing the one or two behaving children.

As for the second reason, I have trouble believing that a teacher has time to explain a group punishment, but not the time to discipline problem children.  If  a child is such a problem that the teacher needs to speak with that child too much, it seems to me that the problem falls into a different discipline domain.

Reason three almost makes sense, until you extrapolate the logic into adult life.  If someone hits a parked car and drives away, the police don't remove everyone's driving privileges for the rest of the day.  If someone loses a library book, the librarians don't close down the library.  I can provide more examples, but I assume you get the point.  Just because the teacher doesn't know who did the offense does not give her the right to punish everyone.  

And peer pressure?  We parents spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to make our children resistant to peer pressure, so that they don't do anything simply because someone told them to.  And now you want to use that pressure to enforce discipline?  Besides, to parents reason three sounds as if the teacher is being lazy, trying to pass off the discipline to the other children.  

What I wish teachers knew was how damaging group punishment can be.  To subject a behaving child to group punishment on a regular basis generates feelings of frustration and anger in that child towards the teacher, not towards the misbehaving students.  Children and parents start to view teachers who regularly use group punishment with less respect, since group punishment is not respectful to the behaving students.   Since students view group punishment as inherently unfair, if one kid tries to stop the group punishment by telling the teacher who was misbehaving, the other children tend to gang up against the "tattle-tale" and against the teacher. 

 In the end, if the choice is between punishing everyone or no one, the proper choice is no one.

Woot! I Won!!!

Last week, I entered a drawing for three books on Sarah Prineas - Fantasy Author.  (If the name sounds familiar, that's because I recently reviewed one of her book, "The Magic Thief".)  The books are advanced reader copies, because all of the books get released to the public on September 18th.

Yesterday, I received an email saying that I won!!!  Now, I am anxiously awaiting the package with my new books:

I feel so incredibly excited - this is the first time I've won a book, never mind three books!!!  I already reserved the first book in the Wildwood Chronicles from the local public library, so I'll try to get that one read before the books arrive.


Book Review: "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being CreativeSteal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative by Austin Kleon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find it difficult to review "Steal Like an Artist" because the book is an amalgamation of advice, anecdotes, and uncommon sense. Austin Kleon writes in an easy-to-follow style, instructing readers about how to be creative without talking down to anyone. In fact while I read the book, I felt like I was part of some secret creators club, with this book as the secret club manual.

The book focuses on 10 rules for people to follow in order to be creative. Rule number one is "Steal like an artist." The other nine are printed on the back of the book, but simply knowing the rules does not give you an edge in creativity. You need the explanations, the stories, the logic behind the rules that Mr. Kleon provides to get that tingly feeling (figuratively speaking, of course).

I recommend this book for anyone over the age of 10, anyone who loves to create but feels stifled in today's world, anyone who loves to think, and anyone doing anything at all creative.

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Book Review: "Sunken Treasure: Wil Wheaton's Hot Cocoa Box Sampler" by Wil Wheaton

Sunken Treasure: Wil Wheaton's Hot Cocoa Box SamplerSunken Treasure: Wil Wheaton's Hot Cocoa Box Sampler by Wil Wheaton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a reader of Wil Wheaton's blog, I already knew that I liked his writing style. But I did not expect to enjoy reading this book as much as I did.

"Sunken Treasure" exposes the reader to more than just a few blog entries. You get to hear how Mr. Wheaton came to terms with Star Trek and Wesley Crusher. You get a taste of his fiction, his writing skills. And you get a cute, informative ending story about the book itself, and Mr. Wheaton's successful foray into the world of e-books.

I strongly recommend this book for all up and coming authors, because hearing about another person's journey can be inspirational.

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Pirates and LendInk and Lies, Oh, My!!

The Dreaded Scourge of the Internet
Pirates and piracy periodically dominate the headlines, as the government attempts to pass new laws supposedly to protect the consumer, as the RIAA takes a teenager with clueless parents to court over alleged file sharing for outrageously large amounts of money, or most recently as a bunch of idiots decide a legitimate business is secretly a pirate site.

Last week, someone in the publishing industry noticed a website called LendInk.com.  This little business venture hooked up people willing to lend out their e-books with people who wanted to borrow e-books.  Started by a disabled vet, Dale Porter, LendInk only handled the initial exchange, sending both parties to the appropriate vendor - either Amazon or Barnes and Noble - to do the actual lending of the e-book.

It seems that the notion that a person can lend an e-book to another person, in a manner similar to the public library lending a book to a patron, is too radical, too new, and too close to piracy for a lot of authors out there.  What began as a misunderstanding on one person's part turned into several cease and desist notices to the website host and several lawsuits threats.  By August 8th, the website disappeared from the cloud.

Now, of course, comes the backlash from the rest of the world.  Indie authors who support LendInk cry foul at those who brought the website down, since people who borrow books tend to buy the ones that they like.  Readers wanting to try out new authors and authors trying to attract new readers - both groups lost out here.

But as people focus on this event, I think we need to step back and take a good look at Internet piracy.

First, let's use some common sense.  Some people will steal creative works (regardless of form factor), no matter what.  No law will stop them, nor will threat of prosecution.  It's a fact of life.  But the vast majority of people will pay money for creative works, be it books, movies, music, or art.

There is a catch though, and the catch for electronic purchases includes the following conditions:

  • The item needs a reasonable price point.
  • The buyer has the right to move the purchase from one digital device to another without hassle.
  • The buyer can lend or give the item to a friend without jumping through hoops.
  • The distributor needs to treat the buyer with respect, and not assume the person is a thief (see the image below).


There's a story among game developers about a man who purposefully did not stop pirates from getting free copies of his games.  Why?  Because the pirates wrote reviews and discussed the games that they liked online, generating more than enough revenue for the man to balance out what was lost to the pirates.

Neil Gaiman released his book, American Gods, online for free back in 2008 with no DRM.  All of his print book sales went up.  All. Of. Them.

In 2009, Wil Wheaton published a DRM-free pdf of his book, Sunken Treasure, on Amazon for $5.  Not only did sales of this electronic book explode, but the print version also began to sell again, as well as some of his other books.

There are more stories out there of people who reject DRM and trust people to be nice and who made money doing so; there is even a grassroots movement called Defective by Design that aims to rid the world of DRM.

So why are we so worried about pirates and piracy that a group of misanthropes shut down a legitimate business because of a supposed piratical threat?  Especially since pirates actually help sales and therefore the bottom line?

Wil Wheaton, My Hero

I recently finished rereading the book "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon.  I love this book because of the simplicity of his ideas, the thoughtful nature of the chapters, and his wonderful, practical suggestions.  One of his suggestions is to write public fan letters to people who you admire, who inspire you, who you think are just extremely cool.

My first public fan letter is to Wil Wheaton, geek, writer, nerd, gamer, musician, blogger, and I think he acts. ;-)

Dear Wil Wheaton,

I have been watching you and your life since either the movie "Stand by Me" or the show "Star Trek: Next Generation" - it's been so long now that the exact dates get blurry.  I know that you hear this all the time, but you are my inspiration.

I too am a geek, a nerd lost in the wilds of suburbia, surrounded by soccer moms and mom entrepreneurs.  I have a few, treasured geek friends, people who understand when I gush over the discovery of life created with arsenic instead of phosphorus (That's not completely accurate but this is a fan letter and not a scientific treatise).  People who love Jonathan Coulton, who sing "Skull Crusher Mountain" with me in public doing three part harmony.

But I would never have continued on writing or blogging if not for you.  I read your blog, the cause of me never looking at closet doors the same way again. I read your books, and I watch interviews with you.  I love how you are so honest and open, how you talk about the struggles of trying to create and wanting to be better.  You posted an image that speaks of the gap between when someone starts creating and when someone starts creating well.  I look at that image regularly, and think of you and how hard you try.

I find inspiration in you, Wil.  I find the ability to continue even when I'm sure I just wrote the worst drivel in the history of drivel writing.  Because I know I am just in The Gap, and it will get better.

I also find material in what has happened in your life.  I have a small draft for my blog almost ready to publish, in which I discuss the problem of Internet piracy and how the big producers have it wrong.  I refer to your exploration in the world of online books, releasing a PDF of "Sunken Treasure" and having sales for the print edition take off as people decide they want a hard copy of your work.

In fact, I think I will follow in your footsteps, and release my first novel as a PDF on Amazon.  Maybe it will work, maybe not.  But because of you, I will try.

Thank you for being Wesley Crusher.  I had a crush on you back then, and I instantly forgave you for the crappy writing.  Thank you for making Star Trek friendlier for your own age group.  Thank you for going on to write such amazing books.  Thank you for continuing to act - I try to watch anything and everything that you are in because I know I will be entertained.  Thank you for being friends with Paul and Storm, and joining them onstage occasionally.  (You'll note the conjunction in the previous sentence.)

Thank you for sharing your dogs, your amazing wife, your sons, and your thoughts with the world.  It would be a bit lonelier without you.

Sincerely,
A Geeky Fan

Book Review: "Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks & the Sea" by Peter Benchley

Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks & the SeaShark Life: True Stories About Sharks & the Sea by Peter Benchley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks & the Sea" contains a plethora of happy and informative stories about Peter Benchley and his encounters with various sea creatures. The book also presents sharks as neither the kindly king of the oceans nor the misanthrope of marine life, but rather as a group of elasmobranchii who view the world much differently than land-based mammals.

When I first started reading this book, I only knew Peter Benchley as the man who wrote "Jaws". By the end of the book, I realized that Peter Benchley truly cares about the oceans, has worked hard to educate people about sea creatures, and is a talented writer. I also learned that I am ashamed at how we as humans have treated the ocean animals, and I wish we could change our ways before sharks join the dodos on the extinction list. But I'm not holding my breath.

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Watch Out! The Twitter Virus Wants You!

This weekend, I received a direct message through Twitter from a friend of mine.  "Wow!  I guess you didn't realize that they were watching you. {insert URL} " read the generic but intriguing message.  But when I clicked the link, the URL first went to Facebook, then to a copycat Facebook page with a different URL.

Ugh!  I had just been targeted by the Twitter Virus!!!

This particular virus sends direct messages from a Twitter account to people who follow that account, telling the recepient that he or she appears in an interesting video.  The message also helpfully includes a link to the suspect video.  But the video link goes to an imitation Facebook page where you are prompted to enter your Facebook login information.   Also, as soon as you click the link, the virus begins trolling your followers list, resending itself to continue the hack.

If you get one of these messages, DO NOT OPEN THE LINK.  I would also let the sender know that their Twitter account seems to be hacked.  That's how I found out later that my Twitter account was hacked - a very nice person told me about a message that I supposedly sent them.

If you do click on the link or your Twitter account is otherwise hacked, I suggest you take the following steps:
  1. Change your Twitter and/or Facebook passwords.
  2. Delete any direct messages that contain the virus sent from your Twitter account.
  3. Check any application linked to through Twitter.  Do you recognize all of them?  Do any of them use the same password?  If so, change the password.
  4. Check any application linked to through Facebook.  Do you recognize all of them?  Do any of them use the same password?  If so, change the password.
  5. Change the password on any account that shares the same password as Twitter or Facebook.
  6. Check your Facebook security settings to ensure that nothing has changed.
  7. Run a virus scan of your computer.

Fly Away, Flu!

This past week, I received an email from the pediatrician's office, telling me that the flu vaccine is now available and remind me to schedule an appointment for my children.  The email spawned some questions:

  • Do I want to schedule an appointment?  
  • Do I want my kids to get another vaccine?

I know that vaccines do not directly cause autism, because I read and believe all of the research surrounding thimerosal.  And I have relatives who died or were permanently disabled from polio, so I also believe that vaccines do good.

But I also know that the over use and misuse of antibiotics has created several new super bugs, including new strains of both tuberculosis and gonorrhea that resist almost all available antibiotics. If we get an epidemic of either disease, we would be hard-pressed to respond in any way other than to let the infected die while protecting the healthy.

So I wonder, do vaccines exasperate the problem?

After research, my answer is no, vaccines do not exasperate the super bug problem.  In fact, by removing certain viruses from the living population, vaccines help us eradicate certain diseases, creating a stronger populations.

I then looked at arguments against the flu vaccine, or vaccines in general:

  1. Vaccines hurt the immune system, as evidenced by the sudden expansion of auto-immune diseases.
  2. The flu vaccine doesn't work because the scientists merely guess what to put into it.
  3. We don't know that vaccines are effective.
  4. My child is not in an at-risk group, and therefore does not need the flu vaccine.
  5. Vaccines use thimerosal, which causes mercury poisoning.

More research ensued, and this is what I learned.
  1. Auto-immune disease, such as arthritis, have been documented for centuries, and there really is no "sudden expansion" in the area.  In fact, vaccines help to exercise the immune system in a world filled with antibacterial soap and obsession with cleaning products.
  2. Okay, the scientists are guessing what flu will emerge each winter.  But the amount of hard work put into that "guess" outweighs the amount of fancy or fantasy in it.  
  3. Proving a positive is quite difficult in science.  But circumstantial evidence solidly and strongly supports the effectiveness of vaccines.
  4. In the beginning, the medical community recommended the flu vaccine only for at-risk groups (such as people with weakened immune systems or with respiratory problems, like asthma).  But these days, everyone is eligible for the flu vaccine because it is better for everyone if no one gets the flu.
  5. Thimerosal is a preservative for multi-dose vaccines that helps to prevent deaths from vaccines gone bad.  In 1928, 12 children died from a staphylococcus infection given to them through a vaccine without preservatives.  Several groups researched thimerosal after someone supposedly linked it to autism, but no one has credibly supported that link.  In response to public opinion, the CDC removed thimerosal from almost all vaccines.  The flu vaccine is an exception, and still contains a small amount of thimerosal, but there is a non-thimerosal version available if you ask for it.
In the end, I would rather my kids not get the flu, so I will be taking them to get the flu vaccine in the next week or so.  My husband and I will also be getting the flu vaccine.  The question now is, will you?

* The video is a song about the flu, composed and sung by the amazing Tom Lehrer.



Book Review: "Article 5" by Kristen Simmons

Article 5 (Article 5, #1)Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this book out of my public library, but immediately lost it to my son, who read the entire novel in three days. Then he bugged me to read it quickly because he wanted to talk to me about it.
I must say, I completely understand his enthusiasm. "Article 5" captures your attention and holds on, from the first chapter until the very last page.

The story follows a typical teenage girl, Ember Miller, as she tries to adjust to life under a new, strict theocracy. Ember keeps her head down, draws little or no attention to herself, and studies hard in school because she fears that girls will not be allowed in certain classes soon.

Then, disaster strikes, as soldiers show up at her house to arrest her mother for breaking Article 5. Ember also gets taken away, not officially "arrested" but now government property; Ember must find a way to reunite with her mother, at all costs.

The strength of "Article 5" relies on well-defined characters and believable action. The most defined character is Ember, as she grows and changes through her experiences. I expected this. But I did not expect the complexity of Chase Jennings, Ember's old friend/boyfriend. Ms. Simmons reveals his character slowly, building it piece by piece so that the reader learns about Chase at the same time Ember does.

As for action, well, let's say I had trouble putting the book down. Ms Simmons writes wonder action scenes that convey the confusion, the violence, and the moments of clarity experienced by Ember.

I almost rated this book 5 stars, but it still have a rough around the edges feeling to it. But I am waiting with bated breath for the sequel.

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Poetry: Election Dejection

The heat of summer
Fries the pavement,
Wilting flowers 
While sucking dry
Any ambient moisture.  

Election season rages on, despite this heat. 
Or the resultant drought. 
Or earthquakes in Iran. 
Or current economic troubles or triumphs.  
Election season rages on.

Lies pile onto lies,
Burying the Truth
Until the truth is no longer.

Mudslingers, naysayers, accusers, 
Political pawns willing to sacrifice their own morals
For a chance at 15 minutes of fame.
Or to be the next Sarah Palin.

Doesn't everyone want an obnoxiously colored bus with their name on it?

Local elections in July
Chase down independents,
Democrats,
Republicans,
Each one vying to get a vote
For their Favorite Cause,
Favorite Candidate,
Favorite Bill.

But no one stands willing to listen to others,
Engage in a real debate,
Reform opinions based on facts,
BE HONEST!!!

The lies of the elections
Pervade and Pervert 
That which they lie for.

The Preamble to the Constitution
Now tells its own lie.
We have no justice,
No domestic tranquility,
No common defense,
No general welfare,
For ourselves or our children.

The Bill of Rights
Now tells its own lie.
We only have rights
IF the government does not declare us terrorists.
One statement,
One word,
And we lose every right.

They say that Evil only prevails
If good people do nothing.
If good people look the other way.

What are you looking at now?

by Kathryn Patterson, 

Wordless Wednesday: English...

In honor of the first week of school, here in Cobb County, a new take on English...


with an older Wordless Wednesday.

Book Review: "The Automatic Detective" by A. Lee Martinez

The Automatic DetectiveThe Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up "The Automatic Detective", by A. Lee Martinez. I read a review of "Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain" that sounded quite interesting, but our local public library only had "The Automatic Detective" and "The Nameless Witch". I check both books out, and found myself pleasantly surprised.

"The Automatic Detective" follows the story of an robot named Mack Megaton in Empire City, a futuristic place where weird and unusual science experiments bring hope and radiation to mankind. Mack is just trying to get by as a cab driver when his next-door neighbors get kidnapped. In a sudden move of compassion, Mack decides that he needs to find and protect these people.

I love this novel!! Martinez pulls elements from the standard pot-boiler detective novel, interject some science fiction, and raps the entire thing in mutated tape. All of the characters come alive, even if they seem a bit two-dimensional, because really, people you meet only once or twice are two-dimensional to a certain extent. Mack grows as a character in an uncharacteristic way; after all, he is a robot built to destroy the world. The villains are a necessary evil, but they help Mack out a time or three. The government conspires; the conspirators govern; and everyone wonders what to do with Mack.

And who doesn't like a talking gorilla?

I hope that Mr. Martinez writes more novels in this universe. Lots more.

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Welcome Back to School!!!

The 2012-2013 school year begins today in Cobb County.  Curiosity and trepidation fill the school buses as kids start a new grade.

Will I like my teacher?  
Will I have too much homework?  
Will I have friends in my class or classes?
What will happen this year???

Parents have just as many questions, wondering if they (the parents) will like the teacher, if their child/children will do well academically and socially, and if they will be able to afford all the related expenses (PTA, school supplies, foundations, new clothes, more school supplies,...)

Though I have said this before, I will say it again - talk to your child's teacher.

Teachers really are human, too, and will not either send you to detention or hate your child because you want to talk to her (or him).  So ask the teacher how she wants to communicate, either email, notes from home, or phone calls, and then treat her as a participant in your child's life.  I make a point of asking what is the teacher's preferred method of communication, even if the teacher says that all methods are acceptable.  Why?  Because the teacher either have 20-30 parents to communicate with (in elementary school) or hundreds of parents (in middle and high school), while I only have 1-8 teachers on my end.

Remember, opening the lines of communication now will help the rest of the year flow more smoothly.

Book Review: "The Magic Thief" by Sarah Prineas

The Magic Thief (Magic Thief, #1)The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pick up this book and read it!!!!

If you like adventure, read it.
If you like fantasy, read it.
If you like magic, read it.
If you like good characters, read it.
If you like evil characters, read it.

Basically, "The Magic Thief" has it all!

I checked this book out of our local library because I love reading fantasy books with magic in them. I have a few other books that I am reading at the moment, so I didn't give "The Magic Thief" much thought. Then I opened it up and began to read. About 100 pages later, I realized that I hadn't put it down.

Sarah Prineas' writing is deceptively simple, easy to follow, and fun to read. She weaves the words around, giving just enough details for you to see a picture in your head without boring you to death with the color of each flower petal. She weaves more words around and poof! Nicely developed characters, appropriate to their place in the story. She weaves even more words and a plot appears. Sometimes I felt that the bad guys were a bit obviously the bad guys, but so do several characters in the story. So instead of feeling badly written, it felt like the slimy people were clearly slimy to everyone.

As an added bonus, this book works for kids as well as adults. So if you are looking for the next book series to read with your kids, viola!

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Book Review: "Once Burned" by Jeaniene Frost

Once Burned (Night Prince, #1)Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a Dracula fan. I read the book and shivered at the potent darkness; I watched "Bram Stoker's Dracula" with Gary Oldman and wept at the depth of his emotion; I read "Ano Dracula" and wondered how London would be if Dracula won (instead of Van Helsing).

But I have found my favorite Dracula here, in "Once Burned". Vlad Basarab Tepesh (or "Master" for his servants and human fold) calculates every move with ruthless care, keeping to his strange moral path to ensure safety for himself and his people. But a sense of loss and longing haunt the man, obvious in how he keeps everyone at arm's length, even those closest to him.

Especially Leila, the heroine and protagonist of the novel. Leila faces Vlad with an open mind and heart, separated from the rest of humanity because of her unwanted abilities. Yet she can touch Vlad, and that touch sparks more emotions and reactions in her that she knows how to handle.

I love that "Once Burned" is a story about love, revenge, vengeance, discovery, and healing. I love how Vlad and Leila learn about each other, drawing closer than either one wants to admit. And I love how Ms. Frost balances the characters, so that both help each other out.

Now, I wait with bated breath, wishing I had a Tardis to jump ahead in time to read the next book in the series.

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