Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Oki and Harlo: Fairytale Friends by Cas Mesterom

Oki and Harlo: Fairytale Friends
by Cas Mesterom

30761727Oki, a little orphaned goat meets Harlo, a shooting star, who falls to earth and ends up in the field where Oki is asleep. They become instant best friends and together they go on a quest to find Oki's momma.

On their adventure, the little friends encounter wise old, Mr. Owl, Wobbly, the chicken, and a little girl named Ellie and her family. 

Enter a world where children can safely go and learn about making friends, being honest, and believing in dreams, as well as healthy eating and the REAL purpose of rainbows! 

"Oki and Harlo, fairytale friends" is the first ever draw freely e-book. 
The story invites the readers to make their own illustrations. There are free-draw pages that have clear instructions on what to draw.

My Take:
This children's book is a little longer than the average illustrated kids' book, weighing in at a bit over sixty pages. The delightful story of a goat who finds a friend in a fallen star, and sets out with him to find his lost mother, will resonate with kids everywhere, who find security in their moms. A bonus is the embedded pages that allow kids to draw and illustrate the book themselves. A nice touch that can turn a children's book into a treasured family memory.

As this is a children's book, I wouldn't expect to find anything objectionable, and I didn't. Certainly related to language, drugs, violence, or adult content. Concerning Christian content, a family goes to church in the story, and there is quite a bit of discussion about a deceased relative and their presence in heaven, and the ability to talk with them. Valuable life pointers such as healthy eating, being honest, showing respect for others, are shared, coming from Oki's mom and a wise old owl. However, I'll caution that talking to a deceased relative is not a practice found in the bible. In a children's book it's a therapeutic thing for a kid to do to deal with the grieving process. Just be ready to answer questions if they arise.

Final Analysis:
Oki and Harlo: Fairytale Friends is a delightful journey full of wisdom and life lessons. The added benefit of places for the kids to illustrate is a big plus, as it promotes creativity and imagination. Five Stars!

Review: The Scorpion by John A. Autero

The Scorpion
by John A. Autero

24860887You watch the TV news every night and think you know what’s going on… think again.

Three friends stumble upon information that describes an underwater excavation site and refinery that processes a newly discovered source of energy. Who built the site? What is the fuel used for? What happened on December 26, 2004? The friends are determined to reveal the truth about their findings to the public and realize that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right. 
“The Scorpion is a Techno-Thriller on steroids!”

My Take:
Who knew digging in the dump could thrust you into the middle of the biggest government cover-up in the USA's history? When Bruce and his two friends find an unmarked computer server drive while reclaiming electronics equipment for their day job, they decide to keep it to store music and movies on. But the top secret government data already on the drive isn't the kind of information you can just ignore. 

When the drive contacts the NSA, government agents come running to reclaim the data and anyone who has seen it. But the three friends aren't going down without a fight. What ensues is an edge-of-the-seat race against time to expose the disaster and cover-up with the help of an underground conspiracy-exposing podcaster known only as the Folsom Street Avenger.


Drug Content:
PG - The three friends make it a weekly habit to visit a local bar. One plays designated driver while the others get a bit wasted. The effects of a hangover are described in some detail. Some drugs are used to obtain the truth, Illegal street drugs don't show up in the book. 

PG - A sniper is used at one point to take out a target. His expertise is described at some length, as well as some of his past activities. NSA agents discuss eliminating people rather blandly. An agent considers the pros and cons of several methods of killing an unarmed target. No gratuitous violence.

R - There's a significant amount of cussing in this book, from the first page, where the F-bomb is dropped quite a few times, to late in the book. The first few pages are actually the worst, and if you don't have a problem there, the rest of the book is much better.

Adult Content:
PG - I don't really recall any adult content in the book, and actually few females show up in the work, other than moms and aunts. 

Christian content:
Ah, pretty much nada. The aunt(?) seems to have a level of faith, and gives some good advice, but there's no scripture that I remember in the novel, and while the central message seems to be one of exposing truth, it's driving force is the public's right to know rather than any moral accountability.

Final analysis:
The Scorpion is a well-written, fast-paced techno-thriller, with believable characters and high stakes on both sides of the fence. I was put off a bit by the language, and the missed opportunity to drive the story's main message by the need for a moral accountability in government, but in retrospect the story stood well on its own, with even room for a fast-paced sequel? Five Stars!

About the Author:
John A. AuteroJohn A. Autero is an indie author of techno-thriller adventure novels. An engineer by education, John employs a technical style of writing that combines existing technologies with those that are yet to be developed. John enjoys anything sci-fi, automotive, heavy metal and ballistic. Always a fan of government conspiracies and black-ops, stories like "The Terminator" and "The X-Files" are always on his list of favorites. John was born in the United States and has spent his entire life there, where he happily lives with his wife and pets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: Cuando papa esta lejos / When Dad's Away by Gabriela Arellano

Cuando papa esta lejos / When Dad's Away
by Gabriela Arellano
illustrated by Gustavo Mazali

32177468(ESPAÑOL) El papá de Kena tiene un trabajo que lo mantiene lejos de casa durante largos períodos de tiempo. De regreso a casa, padre e hijo tendrán una conversación que ayudará al cachorro a entender que la distancia no es un obstáculo para el amor de su papá.

(ENGLISH) Kena 's dad has a job that keeps him away from home for long periods of time. When Dad returns home, he will have a conversation with Kena that it will help the cub to understand that the distance is not an obstacle to his love. 

My Take:
A bilingual children's book is a win-win in my estimation, and this book is a winner all round. Dad is returning from one of his extended work assignments, and Kena is not sure Dad really cares about him, or he wouldn't be gone all the time.

Dad works on an oil rig, and the job requires he spend months away from home. Yet, he is always thinking about his family, and he finds a way to make this clear to Kena. 

Since this is a children's picture book, let's just say there's nothing objectionable in it at all.

Final Analysis:
This is an excellent kids' book with beautiful illustrations, and a heartwarming message of family, coupled with English and Spanish text side by side. Families with dads in the military, who work on oil rigs, or who take extended sales trips, can benefit from reading this together. For a dad, it makes me think about how important it is to get home at night and be with the wife and kids. 

It teaches the family togetherness and the importance of quality time, and helps bridge the language barriers for all ages. I'm an engineer, and this is the first time I've learned the Spanish word for that, ingeniero. Wow, who knew? Five Stars!

About the Author:
(ENGLISH) I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Down there, I studied Majors in Literature and Law. In the United States I taught Spanish in a Montessori school grades 1-12. I'm also a prolific author of several blogs in English and Spanish.

I always wanted to be a writer, and I've written hundreds of unpublished poems and tales since age 8. But it took an additional uprooting experience to finally burst me into a real writer activity. As a mother of a bilingual child I was desperately digging into the major libraries looking for good quality reading material in English and Spanish. I was looking for books that had both languages in the same text. The experience was quite frustrating because of the small number of titles published and the deficiency in their artistic quality, or due to the extreme simplicity of their plots (presumably fit for children 5-year-old and younger, but not for my elementary student daughter). I shared my experience with other mothers of US origin, and found that many of them wanted to teach Spanish to their children, but lamented the lack of sufficient English/Spanish bilingual quality literature. Consequently, I decided to write the books for my child by myself and also put them in the market for those who feel are facing the same kind of literature vacuum.

About the Illustrator:
Gustavo Ariel Mazali es un ilustrador e historietista argentino. 
Dibuja desde muy chico.
Realizó talleres de historieta un año con Alberto Salinas y dos años con el maestro Oswal (creador de Sónoman, Consumatum est, entre otros).
Sus comienzos profesionales fueron las historietas.
Colaboró durante seis años con los “genios” Carlos Trillo y Carlos Meglia en las series Cybersix e Irish Coffee. También realizó varios unitarios con textos de Guillermo Saccomanno y Carlos Albiac. Desde 1998 hasta el día de hoy se dedica a la ilustración de libros para chicos, siendo sus primeras publicaciones en libros de texto escolar, en todas las áreas, para varias editoriales de la Argentina. Con la autora Jane Cadwallader crearon el personaje Uncle Jack, para la editorial italiana Eli. Su libro número 3, Uncle Jack and the meerikats fue elegido por un jurado de niños de todo el mundo como ganador del concurso Language Learner Literature Award 2012 en Japón.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Review: A Way out of Hell by Jim Baton

A Way out of Hell 

by Jim Baton

30272966When ISIS turns your city into a living hell... ISIS unleashes a reign of terror across Indonesia. As a former jihadist, Abdullah knows all too well the high cost and absolute ineffectiveness of fighting such violence with violence. He accepts the impossible challenge of finding the ISIS cell hidden in his city, and disbanding it non-violently. But time is running out, and there may not be any city left to save. Meanwhile, he has to protect his adopted daughter Sari, a Christian university student, who is one of ISIS's targets. Together they come face-to-face with the holy warriors of mass destruction and strive to overcome that evil with good. In this riveting sequel to Someone Has to Die, Jim Baton introduces us to the real people caught in the web of terrorism, with their wide variety of backgrounds and motivations, and the possibility that they, too, can change.

My Take:
Abdullah the former jihadist has a serious problem. After watching his only surviving son die at the hands of a band of terrorists, he learns that this terrorist cell is planning something significant - something that will turn his peaceful Indonesian city into a bloodbath, and a war zone. He is given a seemingly impossible task - find the active ISIS terrorist cell developing in the city, and disband it... non-violently.

This is the second book in a trilogy, yet it stands alone in its own right. I have not read the first book, and there were some references scattered throughout to some of the action in the previous book, yet it was not off-putting and the novel stands alone.


Drug Content:
PG - There's a bar scene with drinking involved. There's also a small amount of social drinking. 

PG-13 - Though it's not exceptionally graphic or gratuitous, there's quite a bit of violence and death in this novel - not surprising, it's a thriller about terrorism and jihad. Many people die in multiple bombings, an airport disaster is orchestrated that kills hundreds, and the method of death for the passengers is described in some detail. There are ritualistic beheadings, violence against children. A man is engulfed in flames. 

PG - There's a small amount of cussing. The F-bomb is not dropped, that I recall.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - The bar scene has strippers with 'other occupations'. There is a rape scene. 

Christian content:
There is a lot of content that is Muslim in nature - the daily call to prayer, various greetings, customs, and dress code. There is some scripture central to the story's theme. There is solid dependence on faith in the face of death.

Final analysis:
This novel is well-written. The action is gripping and fast-paced. The characters are believable and their struggles are real. It's a compelling story with a clear lesson about the power of forgiveness and love. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Jim BatonJIM BATON has spent the last 20 years in the world’s largest Muslim nation, building bridges between Muslims and Christians who both desire peace. His speaking and writing call people out of fear and into authentic friendships that can change the world.