Book Review: Wolf Brother

Wolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, #1)Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wolf Brother is the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. I was looking for something different to read when I saw a set of books tied up with a length of orange ribbon at a flea market. At $15, I think I snagged a bargain as I got all six books for that low price. The books were in fairly good condition too. Double bargain!

I actually finished reading the book on 24 November 2012, but have only just now had the time to write a review.

Description

Thousands of years ago the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon: a demon so evil that it can be contained only in the body of a ferocious bear that will slay everything it sees, a demon determined to destroy the world.

Only one boy can stop it—12 year old Torak, who has seen his father murdered by the bear. With his dying breath, Torak’s father tells his son of the burden that is his. He must lead the bear to the mountain of the World Spirit and beg that spirit’s help to overcome it.

Torak is an unwilling hero. He is scared and trusts no one. His only companion is a wolf cub only three moons old, whom he seems to understand better than any human.

Theirs is a terrifying quest in a world of wolves, tree spirits and Hidden People, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.

Review

Wolf Brother reminded me of Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series. However, where Earth’s Children is written for adults, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is written for children (9+).

It’s a story of a 12 year-old boy trying to save the world. Everyone seems to know more about him than he does himself, because he’s led a secluded life. His father was trying to protect him, but after his father is fatally wounded Torak must find out, fast, what his destiny is.

The book grabbed me from the first chapter. I was actually reading another book at the time and only opened this book for a quick look—and before I knew it I’d read three chapters. It’s the first time I’ve officially read two books at the same time.

The story is set 6,000 years ago when people had a close awareness of the Earth and of nature. A time when the characters believe everything—including rocks, trees, plants—are alive and must be respected. This, mixed with magic, makes a very interesting world indeed.

Torak’s closest companion is a wolf; hence the title of the book—Wolf Brother. The bond between them is shaky to begin with and I believe Torak’s change of attitude towards the wolf pup wasn’t altogether convincing. But that is my only negative towards the book really so that in itself shows the book is good.

Torak’s other companion is Renn, a girl of about the same age. Renn is confident and knowledgeable. Torak learns a lot from her. They make a good contrast and must learn to trust each other, no matter how reluctantly.

The story itself is well written and full enough to allow imagery to form in the reader’s mind, without being too descriptive that it becomes cumbersome and boring. And although the storylines didn’t feel complex because of the way they were written (remember, this is a book for children), they were still full and complete, and very easy to read.

Wolf Brother is a book where time passes quickly as the reader is absorbed into a colourful world. And before you know it the book has ended and you find you just have to grab the next book in the series and continue reading. And that’s exactly what I did.

eBook Review: James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing

James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing (James Potter, #1)James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing by G. Norman Lippert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t usually read fan fiction, but I saw this ebook at the author’s website and felt impressed by the presentation (of the book and the website) and decided to give it a try. I had nothing to lose as the ebook is free (available in epub and mobi). In fact, there are actually three books to the series and all are given away for free.

I finished the book in early December 2012, but just haven’t had time to write a review until now.

Book Description

What’s it like to be the son of the most famous wizard of all time?

James Potter thinks he knows, but as he begins his own adventure at Hogwarts, he discovers just how much of a challenge it really is to live up to the legend of the great Harry Potter. As if it wasn’t enough dealing with the delegates from the American wizarding school and figuring out the mysteriously polite Slytherins, James and his new friends, Ralph and Zane, begin to uncover a secret plot that could pit the Muggle and the Magical worlds against each other in all-out war.

Now, with the help of Ted Lupin and his band of merry mischief makers (The Gremlins), James must race to stop a war that could change the world forever. His only hope is to learn the difference between being a hero and being the son of a hero.

Review

James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing is the first book of three. The books are based on J K Rowling’s books, characters and world, but they are not written by her. The author of this series is G. Norman Lippert.

It is James’ first year at Hogwarts and we get to meet several characters from the Harry Potter series – Longbottom, many of the professors, Hagrid, and Harry, to name a few. The book was written in the essence of the Rowling books, which I was thankful for. There were no jolting scenes that made me think “that’s no right”. In fact, for fan fiction, the book was very well written. I enjoyed it immensely.

All Potter books have the Quidditch scenes. Didn’t like them in the Rowling book; didn’t like them in this book either. Sorry, but quidditch is boring and I find myself skimming over the paragraphs hoping not to miss anything important, but really not interested in the actual sport part of it. I was pleased when James didn’t make the team because it meant less quidditch scenes.

James has two friends—Zane and Ralph. It took me a short while to get used to them. Yes, I saw James as being Harry but found it difficult to replace his two friends with Ron and Hermione. And that is a good thing, because as James is battling the “I’m the son of Harry Potter” thing, the reader is battling with “he’s not Harry Potter”, and meanwhile, the three new characters carry on with what they are doing and the reader soon lets Harry Potter go and starts finding out what James Potter is all about. The interesting thing that happened at the hat sorting was that the three friends were placed in different houses. It will be fun to see how that turns out.

Going back to the subject of Harry Potter, he makes several appearances. I think that was the hardest thing to cope with—Harry as an adult, as a parent. Especially as I think of him as a teenager. Thankfully, his scenes didn’t try to upstage James and there wasn’t a lot of focus on him. He was there to be a father or to do his job, but James was the main character. It was a bit awkward for me as a reader to accept that, but I believe the author did a good job of not delving too deeply into Harry’s adult character, so our memories of him are not tarnished in any way.

Another thing I liked about this book was the references made between the original books and this one. They served as well placed reminders of what happened then, and connected the two series. It was like reading about old friends and revisiting precious memories. The author of James Potter was smart in doing this, intentionally or not.

And, of course, the author introduces us to many new characters who will, no doubt, make the journey with us through the rest of the books. I look forward to learning more about them along the way.

The climax involved Merlin. However, something was lacking from this part of the book. I felt as if something magnificent was able to happen, but it didn’t, which was a bit disappointing. Perhaps there are other plans for Merlin, to be revealed in the next book. We will have to wait and see. If that’s the case, then that’s fine, but I felt his presence was not ‘qualified’ in this book.

This isn’t a perfect book, but few are. There are sections that are long winded, as there was in the J K Rowling books too. And there are scenes that didn’t seem to go anywhere. But, overall, I enjoyed the book a lot. I felt as if I was back in Hogwarts and that is not a bad feeling. In fact, it’s a great feeling. The author introduced us to new characters, but stayed true to what we came to love. I will certainly be reading James Potter and the Curse of the Gatekeeper.

Domain Transferred

Earlier in the year I experienced ongoing problems with bandwidth being used by Google bots–every few days. As a result, the website was constantly offline. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was annoying. Why pay for a website that isn’t even available to readers?

When my hosting came up for renewal, at the end of November, I decided that I really needed a host that provided unlimited bandwidth so that the problem would be eliminated. I initiated the transfer. It took ten days to complete.

Yesterday, I attempted to import my data to the new site and ran into problems. The older data would not import without crashing the website. After much messing around, I allowed the website to remain down and went to the dashboard (thank heavens I still had access to it) and exported the posts and pages only, including any attachments (such as images). Then I deleted everything and started again–a clean install of WordPress and all the plugins. The posts and pages where then imported, and I was pleased to see that the website didn’t crash. However, there are some minor issues. Again, nothing that is considered the end of the world. Some images didn’t come through and I’ve updated the links to fix this problem on the important pages. Nothing in the Preloved Books section came across, so that has to be totally redone. And things like categories have lost their hierarchy, but that is easily fixed. It’s just a matter of making the time to fix these small issues.

Overall, I didn’t lose anything important so I am happy.

Win $100 for a Promo Video

Yes, that’s right, I’m willing to give someone $100.00 for the winning promotion video. However, there are guidelines so keep reading if you think you have the know-how to enter this … competition/work offer.

I don’t have the know-how and that’s why I’m willing to run this competition (for lack of a better word); and why I’m prepared to pay the money. If you submit a video and I like it, then I’ll be paying you for full exclusive use of that video, to use in any way I see fit, for as long as I want.

Firstly, there are three categories and three chances of grabbing $100.00. That means, if I receive videos that I like and want to use in each category then I will pay the submitter(s) $100.00 for each video chosen, which is a total of $300.00.

Secondly, the $100.00 will be paid in Australian dollars. I will pay through PayPal if you live overseas or I will do a bank transfer (or pay through PayPal, if your prefer) if you live within Australia.

Thirdly, I reserve the right not to pick any submitted videos, if they are not to my liking. In other words, I’m not going to pick something I don’t want to use. That would be wasting money and I’m not into doing that.

The Categories:

1. A promo for the Hope Anthology (refer to Hope Anthology webpage).
2. A promo for the Night Terrors Anthology (refer to official webpage).
3. A promo for The Land of Miu series (refer to webpages for Book 1 and Book 2 and upcoming release page for Book 3).

The Guidelines:

1. The video must be under 3 minutes.
2. The video must be tied to the book (or books in the case of category 3) in some way.
3. Everything used in the video – music, images, sounds, voice overs, etc – must not be copyrighted in any way.

That’s it for the guidelines. I don’t want to restrict your imagination by saying any more so the rest is up to you.

If you would like to obtain higher definitions of the cover art work, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Submissions will be accepted up until 31 January 2013 by sending them to my email address, which is karenleefield AT gmail DOT com.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with. 😀

Picking Up the Pieces

Back in March of this year I wrote a post called A Stroke in Life where I said I had had a stroke at the beginning of the year and was put on injections to try and stop me having another stroke. I had the understanding it would be six weeks before my body started getting used to the affects of the injection.

Boy, was I wrong!

It was six months. Six months of hell, I might add. 2012 has been a year best forgotten. And believe me, if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt lousy the entire time I would be able to forget because I’ve done virtually nothing worth remembering. I’ve had little to no social life. I’ve done no writing. I’ve barely had the strength to go outside, let alone walk around shops or parks or any other place of interest.

But I didn’t start this post to complain. I started this post to tell you that despite how horrid the year has been, I am finally starting to feel much better. I’ve actually been putting my hair up and I’ve been using nail polish and I’ve been buying new clothes. These are such small things, but I feel as if I’m living again and that alone makes me want to smile more.

Talking of smiling, the people I know in ‘real’ life have actually been saying to me, “you look different”, meaning I’m smiling. They are happy to see it. I’m happy to do it.

In the last four weeks I’ve caught up on all my paperwork. I’ve done all the housework. I’ve visited all my friends and family. I’ve also been on a wonderful holiday. Life is good.

The last hurdle I had to approach was restarting my course. The last unit I submitted I received a ‘fail’. I was devastated when I saw it. All the previous assignments I had obtained a distinction or high distinction so to suddenly get a fail was not good. That one simple word made the hurdle much harder to approach, but I was mature enough to acknowledge that I did have a stroke shortly before submitting the unit and, luckily for me, the tutor (who didn’t know about the stroke) obviously realised something was out of the ordinary and she gave me the opportunity to resubmit the unit. I also knew that I wanted to finish the course and obtain the diploma I’ve worked hard for. It was difficult, but I had to force myself to face this hurdle. I spent two whole days redoing the unit and I posted it just over a week ago. I haven’t received a result as yet, but I am confident that the ‘fail’ will disappear and be replaced with a better mark. And I am studying the next unit and getting myself ready to start the assignment on Monday. So I can officially say that all hurdles have been faced and conquered.

Picking up the pieces of your life is not always easy. And sometimes, even with love and support, it really is down to you to take the first steps. Often, those steps in life seem extremely difficult but once you take them you look back and think “that was nowhere near as hard as I imagined it would be”.

And right now, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m over the hurdles, the sun is shining in my face and the great unknown is ahead of me. Did I mention, life is good?!

Edited on 15 November 2012: I received the revised assignment back today and I passed with flying colours! I am so relieved. 🙂

Review: WooThemes Extension & Support

Recently, I was looking for ways to sell books and ebooks on a website. When looking at ways to set this up I discovered a WordPress plugin called Woocommerce and decided to install it. However, whilst the plugin is free, it didn’t allow for purchases by weight. So, I went to WooThemes (the developer of Woocommerce) to see if they had anything to solve the problem and found an extension (Australia Post Shipping Method) which, when installed, uses Australia Post API to fetch up-to-date shipping prices. The extension was not free. It cost me $49.00, which I was happy to pay.

But…

It didn’t work!

It would fetch the correct prices if the order contained one paperback book, but would not adjust the shipping fee if multiple of the same book were purchased – 2 books or 200 books; the shipping fee remained the same as it would have been for one book. Also, if a paperback and an ebook were added to the cart, then an error message would be returned instead of a shipping fee for the paperback book.

Naturally, this was not correct. I returned to WooThemes and submitted a support ticket. I’m not a demanding person and I know these things take time, so I was prepared to wait for the help I needed. Besides, there was no urgency.

A week later I received an email confirming that there seemed to be a problem and the issue would be forwarded to one of their developers to have a look at. Two days later another email turned up saying it would be checked to determine if a fix was needed. I continued to wait patiently.

Another week passed and I returned to WooThemes as I hadn’t heard anything and was getting a bit concerned. When I logged into the account and checked on the progress of the support ticket, I discovered it had been closed, but I hadn’t actually received any help.

My patience ran out at this stage. No help had been offered. The extension doesn’t work. It is useless to me. I have paid for the extension and expect more from them than that.

I sent another email. This time I was more demanding. This time I said that if I wasn’t going to receive the help I required to get the extension working properly then I wanted a refund. No response has come back to me in over 8 days. They were happy to take my money, but not so happy to help me get the thing working. I am not happy with their extension or their support.

I do not recommend anyone purchase anything from WooThemes. It doesn’t ‘just work’. And the support is non-existent.

I have since found a free plugin called AWD Weight/Country Shipping, which is simple to use and works like a charm. I wish I’d found it BEFORE throwing $49.00 down the toilet.

Edited on 1 November 2012: Just wanted to say that I didn’t actually ask for a refund, I requested a credit towards another extension called Table Rate Shipping, which reportedly worked out the shipping fee using the total weight in the cart at the time. I have no idea if this extension would have worked or not, but the extension costs $99.00. As I was willing to fork out another $50 it shows I was serious and sincere, in my opinion. However, still no reply and at this stage I wouldn’t spend another cent with them because I simply don’t trust them now.

Edited again on 15 November 2012: Still no reply. I guess that tell me everything we all need to know. Support doesn’t exist over at WooThemes, so be wary of purchasing anything.

Edited on 15 December 2012: Never heard back from them.

DVD Review: Rosewood Lane

Rosewood Lane is a horror/thriller movie starring Rose McGowan and Daniel Ross Owens.

The synopsis reads: Radio talk show therapist Sonny Blake moves back to her childhood home on seemingly idyllic Rosewood Lane after her alcoholic father dies. But upon arrival in the old neighbourhood, Sonny discovers her neighbours are terrified of the local paperboy. She thinks this is ridiculous, until she encounters the boy himself. It turns out that he is a cunning and dangerous sociopath, one who may have gruesomely killed her father… and others. When the boy starts to call Sonny’s radio show and recite eerie nursery rhymes, an unnerving game of cat and mouse begins, one where Sonny starts to doubt her own sanity.

Firstly, why do people insist on going outside when they know there’s a killer on the lose? It’s annoying, but I guess if they didn’t do it then there wouldn’t be a movie as no one would get murdered.

Apart from the obvious where that is concerned, this movie was quite good. It was entertaining. It had some moments when you think your own heart will strangle you. And it had tension. What I also liked was the ‘tease’ of information. If you sit and think about it afterwards, the movie does tie up all the loose ends, but when it actually finishes, you feel a bit ‘up in the air’ and some people may even feel a bit confused. There are clues throughout the movie which tie in perfectly with the ending. It was quite well done really.

Rose McGowan did a great job with her role. She was convincing…even though her character was a bit frustrating at times. I certainly wouldn’t do the things she did, in the same situation, but maybe I’m a coward.

Daniel Ross Owens was brilliant. His character was creepy, which is perfect for this type of movie.

Definitely worth watching, and a sequel could easily be in the future.