Lullaby: My review


 

Lullaby: Amanda Hocking

 

The bond between sisters is often so great that some can complete the sentences of the other even before the words come out. But, what happens when one sister is captured and her family threatened if she does not go along with her captors? How far will Harper go to find Gemma and return her to her family? How many risks will be taken and how many lives will be in danger? Can you hear the song of the sirens if you do they might wind up dead? But, before all is said and done only one song will be heard.

 

Gemma has no choice but to go with the sirens and adhere to their way of life. We meet her as she interacts with Thea, expresses her feelings about her condition, cannot seem to eat and the starkness of the house where she is being kept is almost as bare and stark as her new life. Each siren more evil and cunning than the next as Gemma is recruited by these three unusual figures that can transform into other shapes.  Penn, Lexi and Thea are the three sirens, violent, evil and dangerous and Gemma needs to become one of them. But, can she? The second in the Watersong Trilogy, we also meet Harper her sister, Daniel the man she seems torn about and Alex, Gemma’s boyfriend who is devastated about her disappearance but figures out where she might be.

 

As the author enlightens readers as to how Gemma came to be a siren we learn the affect it has on her body and why she’s fighting them. Unable to eat and hold down food, fearful that she won’t return home, her body has become part mythical creature and part mermaid. The song of the siren keeps her focused on their agenda and learning how and why she was chosen chilling. While her sister Harper, Daniel and Alex search for her add Facebook pages and hopefully get some hits and help, the history behind the sirens why one was killed and their goals are revealed.

 

We meet Alex, Gemma’s boyfriend who stands guard on her house and will not leave until he finds her. Daniel who has feelings for Harper but pushes him away because of her search for her sister, yet he does not give up. With Daniel’s help and guidance Harper finally opens up and tells him what she feeling and allows him to help find Gemma.

 

Gemma is miserable only leaving and going with the sirens because they threatened to harm her family. Three evil and wicked sirens can Gemma stand up to them or will she permanently change? The reason for her change and why they took her was for their own selfish purposes and the key was to find another siren before the next full moon. Her new body awkward at times having scales and not legs, dealing with Penn, Lexi and Thea Gemma had to find a reason to stay alive and remain that way. How far will Gemma go to protect the people she loves?

 

The author allows the reader to hear both Harper and Gemma’s innermost voices, concerns, fears and apprehensions. But, will both Alex and Daniel be able to help find Gemma and what can they do that Harper cannot? Enter Marcy, who works with Harper in the library and who covers for her so she can find her sister. But, each time we see Gemma she is tormented by Penn and the other sirens that her body begins to fall apart and if she does not swim and revitalize herself she and the rest will die. There is much more as Gemma tries to bond with Sawyer who at first seems naïve about his relationship with Penn but knows that she cast a spell on him causing him to react to her the way he does and submit to her every command. Imagine being turned, unwillingly into a siren, which according or our author is a mermaid that can enchant people with their voices, usually men. The song of the siren is quite powerful. As Harper, Daniel and Alex search for Gemma and we learn more about Nathanlie their mother who suffers for TBI yet seems aware that Gemma is missing. Knowing that these sirens are monsters and evil would Gemma do their bidding or will she stay true to who she is and rebel?

 

Choices are decisions we make and have to live with the good and bad of them. The consequences that we endure as a result of poor decision making will become part of what we deal with as Gemma relates to the reader in Chapter 12 telling us that she has made the choice to join the sirens, spend her life with them and needs to deal with it. Leaving behind her family, friends and boyfriend for their own protection was more than just a small sacrifice. Joining the sirens in watching a movie, swimming and spending her day with them would create conflicts within her for Sawyer as she too seemed drawn in by him. Realizing that she could no longer restrain herself she decides to take his car and blow off some steam. But, what would be her next step and will she ever return home as Harper and Daniel clean Bernie’s house after the funeral and his murder.

 

But, Gemma needs her space and what happens will place within the realm of the sirens as she meets an overbearing man in a restaurant and takes action when he follows her and becomes more of a siren than she would like. Not remembering the entire incident but the end result killing someone Gemma’s life would never be the same. Would this bond her with the sirens and what about Penn’s attitude towards her?

 

As you come to know Gemma even more you realize that she’s concerned about her actions, what is going to happen to her next. But, sometimes bad choices might bring unexpected results as Daniel makes a strong connection between the sirens and the murders of young boys and just might figure our where Gemma is and bring her back home. What happens next will surprise the reader and let you know that Harper will stop at nothing to protect her sister but what about the sirens and what will they do when they realize that she’s missing?

 

When the sirens come face to face with Harper, Daniel, Alex and Gemma what happens will surprise you, the twists and the turn plus the surprise ending will definitely make you want to read Tidal the next in the trilogy. Just what does Penn have in mind for Gemma? Will she figure out what went wrong and decide to destroy more people? Will Gemma’s family ever be safe from the sirens? How far or how much will she sacrifice to keep the people she loves safe from harm? What happens to Sawyer and what does Lexi try to do to Gemma?

 

Sisters forever and some will go more than that extra mile is one issue brought to light in this novel. Friendships, loyalties, caring and the love of two sisters just might outfox the sounds and music of the deadly sirens. Author Amanda Hocking once again pens a novel that keeps the reader glued to the printed page, wearing earplugs so you don’t hear the songs being sung, and hoping that someone will finally short circuit the songs of the sirens. Some lullabies can be deadly and others you just need to tune out.

 

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

 

 

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The Oleanders of San Leon


The Oleanders of San Leon

 

Author: Andy Upchurch

 

 

Did you ever think you would build your own house even though you have absolutely no skills in architecture or building? One determined man named Andy Upchurch shares his exciting experience with readers from start to finish as he takes us through the process of building his own house. An oleander is a flowering bush the author writes and you will find them in a rural area named San Leon. So, the author decided to use this flower as the name of his house that yes, you guessed it, that he built in San Leon. Explaining to the reader how you clear the path, mow the area and deal with the mosquitoes, you learn how he began his long project. But, first he allows the reader to get to know Andy the person by telling us about his childhood, his love for the piano, music, wind and the water. Practicing the piano was something he did but like any kid he would rather be outside. But, the piano would bring him more than just the ability to be part of music programs in school it would provide an outlet for him to have fun, make money and even create his own band. The second think that shaped his life is the wind. HE loved sailing and the water. In college he sailed with friends he loved sailing around the waters in Dallas and the fund they had was priceless. His music career was off to a great start and he was playing 12 to 14 times a week and saving money. But, a harsh reality set in and he realized that he needed a job where he could earn a real salary and make something of himself and have some stability. Why not a new career in software development and off to business school? With his feet firmly on solid ground his decision made but his love of the water equally as great he entered business school and bought a boat. Creating his own band at the Hoagie Ranch boosted his music career. Living on a boat which he named the Manana and just how he manages to live in a confined space on this boat you will have to learn when you read pages 37-40. The story continues with the author moving to Texas and describing his relationship with his boat and living on the water. Continuing with learning the rules of safety he even buys a Jet Ski, which he uses for fishing and exploring different places that a sailboat was too shallow for. But, before he tells us about how he built his house he continues with more adventures that you need to read for yourself and then shares how he lived on the boat for five years. When he realized he needed more room is when he began drawing his new home on paper. He wanted the house to have one large room to have multiple purposes. How about an all in one living room, bedroom, kitchen and enclosed bathroom. The way he describes it in detail on pages 64-65 and then he explains that you might say this is his practice house. Then, he would build a bigger one. But, once again he flashes back to his college years and his trip to Bermuda and seeing Chuck Berry and actually playing on stage with his band with Chuck Berry. Now, that must have been quite an honor and definitely quite exciting. Taking care of the cottage was first and then how do you build a house?

 

Persistent and definitely on a mission to get the job started and done the author meets with several bankers, is turned down by some and then receives an acceptance and is ready to move on with his project. Architect chosen, materials needed, and the land needing to be cleared he decided to settle in San Leon. Listen to his inner most thoughts and words as he beings clearing the land, his lawn mower at the heart of the project and hoping that the large amount of trees and jungle would begin to disappear. But, next time bring the Calamine lotion with you and put on bug repellent to avoid those nasty mosquitoes. The challenge was clearing all of the oleander bushes and just how he does it you can read on pages 96- 100. Forming his own construction company helped to organize him and allowed him to see where he needed to improve and where he might need some help. Realizing he formed the company to build his two houses he would offer: services in plumbing, roofing, landscaping, electric and much more. As you read Chapters 7-9 you can feel his excitement, the progress can be noted in the illustrations and the additional help he received from Chris and his carpenter named Gilberto.

 

Next, he tells how he went shopping for showers fully loaded with an MP3 player and sound system and much more. But, loan officers have no sense of human and he would lose the money and the loan if he did not complete the house on time. But, in the spirit of a true loan officer she wished him luck but hoped he’d finish in time before losing what he started and damaging his credit. The author really enjoys fishing and being on the water and you can enjoy his trips too when you read chapter 13 but let’s find out what caused his color conniptions in Chapter 14. As he contemplates the finishes, the wood and the many different colors and textures for the walls, and more. With the help of several other men he just might get it all done and in time. So, how does this all come together and does he finish on time? Wait until you see the kitchen and bathroom on pages 249-250. You won’t believe what this novice was able to accomplish. A checklist of all that needed to be done and the rest read the press release on page 259 and decide if you would have liked to have been invited to the party. The Oleanders of San Leon to learn just how this house turned out and what he was able to accomplish you need to read Chapter 16. But, Hurricane Ike struck the Oleanders and everyone in its vicinity and how he and his family handled what happened will remind you of what we just went through last week with Hurricane Sandy. The rebuilding and the rest you need to read and you have to give this author tons of respect and credit for wanting to accomplish something that most would have given up on at the first turn. Read the appendix and learn about the Flora and Fauna and learn about the mystery that comes with his house. Mistakes were made, measurements were off but one thing that held fast was his spirit of adventure and his determination to get it done.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

 

AS IT IS ON EARTH: MY REVIEW


As It Is On Earth

Author: Peter Wheelwright

 

The intricate design of a carefully woven tapestry can often tell the story of a person’s heritage, history or family from start to finish. Each piece of this perfectly captivating mural on canvas depicts the many generations of a family, their lives, their struggles and their story. Author Peter Wheelwright’s tapestry dates back to the Pilgrims and a family from New England whose lives span twelve generations and whose story is so interesting that it allows readers to learn not just about the family he’s writing about but about the many places they’ve lived. The Thatcher family is the focal point or the center of this story and it’s their pictures or faces that the author has vividly described and placed within the center of the tapestry. Each of their individual stories told are depicted in the remainder of this magnificent hand-woven fabric that covers an entire wall and tells a story that will touch your heart.

 

This family lived in Maine and their lives were not that different from many, yet definitely unique in many ways. Taylor Thatcher is our narrator and guide throughout this novel. He’s a college professor at the University of Hartford teaching science. But, Taylor’s teaching style, his ideas and thoughts are not typical as you learn from the beginning chapters where we meet him as a young child, learn about his relationship with his brother, Bingham and the history behind his birth. Added in is Taylor’s relationship with a woman named Esther whose loving but different care for both boys and their antics involving several girls adds some extra spice to the novel. Taylor’s personality is quite strong in the sense that he often acts without thinking and yet compensates, as he states himself, by relying on “ the cup of my hand to measure how things stand with me and the women I think I love.” Taylor begins to tell the reader more about himself on October 5, 1999 where the story continues and we learn more about his teaching career and his fall out with the head of his department and his fear of being let go.

 

 

Taylor’s younger brother Bin or Bingham is a major influence in his life, but not the way most would think. The sciences fascinate him and the museum he creates in his home calling it Nib’s Museum of Geology Zoology and Cosmology would be the envy of any museum curator. But, each time he and Bin are together you get the feeling that there is some underlying secret yet to be revealed, and Taylor feels responsible for him not just because he’s his brother but because of some sense of guilt.

 

 

Taylor’s lectures are both exciting, electrifying and quite unique. His students are enthralled with his methods and enjoy taking his classes even though the head of his department questions his techniques. Student responses about him are positive and although he might be unorthodox in his teaching style his students soar. As the author draws us deeper into his past and his life by relating to the reader facts about his father, a doctor, a cold man who changed after losing his wife. Enveloping himself in the lives of his patients, he divorced himself from his children in more ways than one. Taylor recalls his mother’s death as the author paints a picture of a canoeing accident that changed more than just the complexion of his family but his father’s life too. Standing by helplessly watching her drown sent him further to seek out the bottle and farther away from his family until he marries her twin sister Rose. What would have been a new start once again ends in tragedy as she dies from diabetes leaving him with a newborn son, Bin, and the need to get someone to care for his sons while he is with his patients. Esther Flournoy Bishop, a Cajun/Indian woman is hired by the father, the Deacon, to take care of the boys and to run the farm. She becomes a mother to both boys in her own way.

 

Throughout the novel we realize that Taylor is trying to create a picture of his family’s history and his position with in it. Reaching his 31st birthday where this story takes hold on Columbus Day 1999, Taylor looks for the answers in his life that have been hidden away for too long. Coming to terms with his mother’s death, dealing with a younger brother born on his birthday, Oct 11, the reader realizes that Bin is the total opposite or perhaps the other half of Taylor.

 

Taylor allows the reader to learn more about his younger years, his problems in school and his friendship with Galen McMoody, getting stoned, and his father putting his foot down. With the help and encouragement of Esther, he decides to attend the University of Hartford in Connecticut. But, Taylor was off base a lot and it took time to correct his mistakes and get back on the right path.  He got his undergraduate degree in the Sociology of Engineering Science and a second one in the Science of Social Engineering. After Graduate school, and a doctorate, he shares his own ideas about the space-time continuum and much more. We learn about his father’s death, and the birth of Esther’s daughter causing the reader to begin to wonder more about the relationship between Esther and the Deacon. A loner for the most part sharing an office with a senior professor, Taylor’s enticed to join in some social entertainment, so why not poker like Texas Hold’em which if I might add I just learned how to play and the group playing is quite interesting to say the least.

 

As he is preparing to moderate a weekend symposium in New London, we learn more about his life: his love with Nicole Robbins, a biologist who he constantly refers to as leaving him; her friend Liberty, his brother Bin and Jemma McMoody their neighbor from Maine. Then the author brings in Miryam, a photographer who brings her photographs of bridge crossings up and down the Connecticut River to Taylor asking if he would help with some of the technical history. Although he’s interested in this young girl, he introduces her to Bin. But, as Taylor describes their encounter, her physical appearance which he takes notice of in a graphic and vivid manner, you begin to feel that he’s interested in her and not just in her photographs. Calling him about Bin, showing him the pictures of his brother you begin to wonder if Bin was even aware that he was being photographed. His facial expressions, the way he describes them, are almost expressionless and he seems devoid of any knowledge of his surroundings. The way she describes Bin and his actions are almost like a butterfly not wanting to evolve from its cocoon.

 

There are many people that seek to find the answers to their lives but never do. Some like his brother Bin are happy within their own realities and never pass judgment and takes things as they are. The plot flashes back and forth to many events in Taylor’s life and we begin to understand his fears and trepidations revolving around his brother. As he goes on a quest you might say or his own individual journey to find out who he is, he learns more about two Indian tribes, their casinos in Connecticut and we follow the trail or path to the day his life changed and the relationship between the two Indian tribes.

 

Author Peter Wheelwright’s research into the history of New England, the Mexican and American Indian Tribe History is extensive and provides the background for much of this story as well as Bin’s love of the stars, religious history and a dramatic ending that binds and brings it all together.

 

Bin is a complex character with many different sides and although he left his roots, Jemma and his safety net, and Esther he arrives in Hartford, gets work with the state of Connecticut and seems happy. The author relates Bin’s relationship with Jemma, the fact that Miryam is close with him, his last day of work, and that Jemma has come to Hartford looking for him. But, who is the child with her and what is their relationship?

 

The characters in this book are unique in many ways. Taylor, although a college professor, has many different layers that comprise who he really is and you often wonder throughout the story if he’s ever going to really define himself. Bin, a kind and yet lost soul after his accident, seems to depend on either Miryam or Jemma to guide him through life, yet his ability to see the world through his unique perspective is compelling. Miryam is a photographer that attracts Taylor’s attention, yet he sets her up with Bin. Two men Taylor works closely with, Charles Dunham and William Bent-Wigley, play an integral part in many of the social engagements he gets himself and, in addition to Liberty, William’s girlfriend, seem more concerned with the casinos than the college. Nicole is having a child with her new lover, Rafael Villareal who provides even more intrigue to this cast of eclectic characters. The author cleverly weaves within this intricate tapestry the stories of the characters, their relationships, how they met and what brought them to this point in time before the birthday celebration and the secrets about the family are revealed.

 

What makes this book stand out is the history the author presents about the many Indian tribes, their culture and their rituals when burying bones and bodies. Readers are introduced to The Native-American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act that most might not be familiar with and the understanding of what the Native Americans do to honor their dead.

 

The secrets about his family are revealed and we learn more about not only his father’s past but Esther’s too as it links to more than just a child’s fate. The secrets are even deeper than you can imagine as Esther reveals more to Taylor about the hidden truth within her family and the secret behind her own paths. The ending will bring everything to light and together as we learn more about the Puritan laws, heritage, the link to the many Indian Tribes, the conference at New London, the incident at Mohegan Sun and the final piece of the tapestry woven at the birthday celebration. One man torn in many places between family, friends, career, history, traditions and finding his own place in this world.

 

Just what happens and if he remains to take his place with his family you will have to learn for yourself. The stars are amazing and seeing Jupiter and the planets hold so many secrets as Taylor decides whether he will focus on There and Before or decide to know more about the Here and Now.

 

One powerful novel and one outstanding story told in the voice of one man whose life will change when the tapestry and the final stitch is sewn. Taylor’s story does not end, its just beginning, and where he decides to go from here only he knows; it will depend on just how far he wants to see As It Is On Earth, or keep his head focused up in the sky at the stars.

 

Let’s give this book: FIVE STARLIT NIGHTS FILLED WITH GOLDEN STARS

Fran Lewis: Reviewer