All posts by swlothian

Our California Adventure Has Begun (Sans quake)

As today marks the day that we leave Orlando and begin our long journey back down under, we thought it would be great to call in on some old favourites. So, as it’s on the way we’ve decided to drop into Los Angeles for a few days to break the trip, more specifically Disneyland Park and California Adventure. This US holiday has all been about the kids (and the big kids at heart) so we planned it to be full of kid fun and kid excitement.

LA holds plenty of memories for me. I’ve been here about 6 or 7 times over the years and done all of the touristy things you can imagine. My first ever visit to LA in 1994 was marred with an event that I hope I never experience again. On our first night, we’d arrived from Vancouver and settled into a long overdue night of sleep. Suddenly we were rocked from our beds as an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude hit in the dead of night. It was the longest forty seconds of my life. I held onto the bed as it bounced and moved across our 9th floor room. I was totally convinced that I was going to be smashed through the window as the building fell over, and down onto the car park below. I even had time to decide that I would grip the mattress during the fall to cushion the impact. Well, lucky for me the hotel didn’t fall over, and I didn’t land in the car park clinging to my mattress. To an LA local this reaction probably seems lame, but for a young lad from another part of the world who had only ever seen earthquakes in movies it was exactly what ran through my mind.

Wow … welcome to LA. It was an experience that was both terrifying and amazing. I remember thinking that if I was going to choose anywhere to be in an earthquake, it would have to be LA, where buildings are built to withstand them. If the same thing happened in some other part of the world, then maybe it would have been a whole different story. But even LA suffered huge damage that night. I remember sitting there in complete shock and watching the live news on TV (which had bounced from one end of the bench to the other and almost fallen onto the water on the floor that had splashed out of the toilet and was seeping into the room from the bathroom). They crossed to the freeways and buildings that had collapsed and showed vision of fires and cars running off the broken freeways. I think that there were about 60+ fatalities, which confirmed just how big a disaster it was. It was no minor quake. That day in 1994 is a point in my life that I use to measure things – before quake and after quake.

My family and friends back home in Australia were frantic as they watched the disaster unfold on TV and tried (unsuccessfully) to contact me for almost 12 hours. It’s a day that I’ll never forget and one that reminds me that life is short and can change in an instant. Ironically, over the following week, our stay was full of aftershocks, but when we went to Universal Studios the Earthquake section of the Studio Tour was closed due to earthquake damage.

This video of live news from that day is quite long, but click your way through it to get some insight on what was happening. Once daylight arrived the true extent of the damage became apparent.

 

Anyway, I trust that this visit to LA will be fun and won’t involve another earthquake, as I’d have to be pretty unlucky to drop in for two of them in a lifetime. Here are a couple of vids showing some things that we’ll be getting up to in the final stages of this memory making holiday.

 


While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

 

2014 in Reviews

When I created my site I never planned to review books. There are plenty of amazing people around who have greater reviewing talent than me. But, as time passed I found that I wanted to share my thoughts and hopefully gain some followers who would be interested in what I had to say. Now, with another year having flown by I thought it may be a good time to reflect on my 2014 reviews.


JANUARY

HP 3HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (HP3)
by J.K. Rowling ★★★★★

Azkaban is one of my favorite HP books. It was so good to get back to Hogwarts, catch up with everyone and learn more (again) about that fateful day in Harry’s life when he first encountered Voldemort.

The full review is here.


Janitors #1JANITORS (JANITORS #1)
by Tyler Whitesides ★★★★

I enjoyed the originality of the story. Never before have I read about (or even contemplated) janitors having such amazing powers. I’ll never look at a janitor in the same way, I’ll always be wondering which side they’re on.

The full review is here.


The Maze RunnerTHE MAZE RUNNER (BOOK #1)
by James Dashner ★★★★★

This book has great mystery, action, and likable characters. I can honestly say that this is a series that I’m keen to keep reading. I’m looking forward to getting into the next book …. and the movie too. FYI – I’d put this book and movie in the YA category rather than MG.

The full review is here.


FEBRUARY

Zoe and Zak 1ZOE & ZAK AND THE GHOST LEOPARD (ZOE & ZAK ADVENTURES #1)
by Lars Guignard  ★★★★

Lars Guignard has done a great job in blending Indian legend and tradition into a modern adventure that kids will love.

The full review is here.

 


MARCH

The Red PyramidTHE RED PYRAMID
(KANE CHRONICLES #1)
by Rick Riordan  ★★★★

I liked that it kept me engaged. Overall I liked the book and will read the others in the series. This book has way more mythology bound into the plot than my books.

The full review is here.


TutankhamenTUTANKHAMEN SPEAKS
by Cheryl Carpinello   ★★★★

I really enjoyed this one and I look forward to the full Tut book in the future.

The full review is here.

 

 


APRIL

Gregor the Overlander - Cover 3GREGOR THE OVERLANDER
(UNDERLAND CHRONICLES 1)
by Suzanne Collins    ★★★★

Gregor the Overlander was an entertaining read, which has hooked me for the rest of the series.
It’s a great debut novel from an author who has gone on to become hugely successful.

The full review is here.


MAY

TROLL MOUNTAIN (EPISODES I, II, III)
by Matthew Reilly ★★★★

Troll Mountain 1Troll Mountain 2Troll Mountain 3

As a loyal and long term Matthew Reilly fan, I was bound to like these books. Although they were quite different to MR’s other books the story kept me enthralled and glued to them until finished. They may not be for everybody, but then again, no books are. Great job MR.

The full reviews are here.


Bully for ThemBULLY FOR THEM  (Outstanding Australians on Hard Lessons Learned at School)
by Fiona Scott-Norman ★★★★★

This started out as a simple book review, but I think it uncovered how much this book impacted me. I’m so glad to have seen it mentioned on The Project (an Aussie TV show), at which time I immediately went online and bought it. I think this is a wonderful book.
The full review is here.


Noah Zarc 1NOAH ZARC: MAMMOTH TROUBLE (Book #1)
By D. Robert Pease ★★★★

This book was choc-full of action. I really enjoyed the story and it kept my interest from the first page.

Great climax too.

The full review is here.

 


JUNE

Fizz and Peppers - newFIZZ AND PEPPERS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD
By M.G. King    ★★★★★

Fizz and Peppers is a great read that as I mentioned before, was a pleasant and action filled surprise.

A recommended read.

The full review is here.

 


Double Vision 1DOUBLE VISION (Double Vision 1)
By F.T. Bradley    ★★★★★

The plot is great. It has a nice mix of action, adventure and a likeable cast. Twists, turns and the suspicion of double agents had me changing my mind along the way as the mystery unfolded. Highly recommended.

The full review is here.


HP 4HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (HP4)
by J.K. Rowling ★★★★★

Each time I re-read these books I love them more. The Goblet of Fire is an action packed story that’s full of great moments. The various paths and plots within the story converge into a wonderful and exciting climax.

The full review is here.


The Scorch TrialsTHE SCORCH TRIALS
(Maze Runner 2)
by James Dashner ★★★★★

This book is a full-on action packed thrill ride from cover to cover. It’s got new friends, old friends, new foes, old foes, betrayal, doubt, pain, hope, hopelessness. I could go on, but I think you get the message … it’s got heaps crammed into it. Highly recommended.
The full review is here.


AUGUST

The Son of NeptuneTHE SON OF NEPTUNE (HEROES OF OLYMPUS #2)
by Rick Riordan ★★★★

It’s another cool PJ tale, which was hard for me to initially get into, but once I did, I enjoyed the read.

It’s a no brainer that it will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson.

The full review is here.


SEPTEMBER

The SilkwormTHE SILKWORM (Cormoran Strike #2)
by Robert Galbraith ★★★★★

I really enjoyed this new Cormoran Strike case. The plot had me guessing along the way and changing my mind a heap of times. At first I thought it was (.) then (.) but when I found out it was (.) … I was surprised. Recommended for fans of crime solving, JK and RG.
The full review is here.


Mystery of the Egyptian ScrollMYSTERY OF THE EGYPTIAN SCROLL (Zet Mystery Case #1)
by Scott Peters ★★★★

This was an exciting adventure that will appeal to kids who are fans of mystery, adventure and ancient Egypt.

The full review is here.

 


Frankie DuPontFRANKIE DUPONT AND THE MYSTERY OF ENDERBY MANOR
by Julie Anne Grasso ★★★★★

Frankie is the new sleuth on the block who I’m sure will win fans amongst younger readers. He’s accompanied by a cast of quirky characters who add some fun to the mystery. Recommended for young readers keen to get the inside scoop on how to solve a mystery.
The full review is here.


OCTOBER

Camelot Kids 1THE CAMELOT KIDS (PART 1)
by Ben Zackheim  ★★★★★

This is an original spin on and age-old legend, which has me hooked. I will continue to read this series of four (I think) parts. Great job. Recommended for kids (and adults) who are fans of King Arthur and Camelot with a twist.

The full review is here.


NOVEMBER

ContestCONTEST
by Matthew Reilly ★★★★★

Another great white-knuckle-action-packed-adventure from MR. Let’s hope that he releases some more action novels in the future. I seem to have exhausted his supply of action books now. Maybe a re-read of some of them is in order :)

The full review is here.


Camelot Kids 2THE CAMELOT KIDS (PART 2)
by Ben Zackheim  ★★★★★

This is another great instalment in the series. Part 2 is an entertaining read, which has left me eagerly awaiting Part 3. Be warned, there is an unexpected twist at the end of this one.

The full review is here.


Sons of the SphinxSONS OF THE SPHINX
by Cheryl Carpinello  ★★★★★

This was an entertaining time-travel adventure with a twist. It succeeds with a nice blend of fact and fiction. Recommended for fans of ancient Egypt who like a little magic mixed in. A good story for teens and adults who are young at heart.

 The full review is here.


 DECEMBER

Daisy CooperDAISY COOPER AND THE SISTERS OF THE BLACK NIGHT (DAISY COOPER 1)
by Robert Dee  ★★★★

This was a real surprise package for me, given that I grabbed a copy based on the cool cover. Recommended for readers who love female heroes and action rolled into the one story.
The full review is here.


 

 

 

 

3 Cheers for Read Tuesday!

The 9th of December 2014 marks a great day for readers. It’s the annual Read Tuesday, which gives readers a day of absolute bargains and great value, just in time for the festive season.

To celebrate, I’m offering a great special Kindle Matchbook offer to readers. Anyone who buys the paperback edition of any of my books from Amazon, gets and ebook version for $0.00 (that’s a free ebook folks).

Click below to jump on over to Amazon and grab yours now.

button-amazon

If you’d like to see what other great offers are available today, then click on the pic below to check them out.

Read Tuesday Banner

 

Book Review | Daisy Cooper and the Sisters of the Black Night (Daisy Cooper 1) | Robert Dee

Daisy CooperDAISY COOPER AND THE SISTERS OF THE BLACK NIGHT (DAISY COOPER 1)
by Robert Dee ★★★★
Kindle edition purchased from Amazon

When you’re twelve years old and want to travel the world as a reporter for International Schoolgirl magazine you’d better be able to prove you can find a good story at home first.

Budding reporter Daisy Cooper finds the perfect school when she wins a place at the brilliant but eccentric Darlington School for Girls. With maths classes that involve poker games, science lectures where pupils fire rockets and biology lessons that take place in a real zoo it is everything she could have wished for.

The school is also home to International Schoolgirl, a magazine that sends specially chosen pupils – International Schoolgirls – on adventures across the globe in search of ground-breaking stories. To travel the world as a reporter is something Daisy has always wanted and she dreams of being chosen.

Daisy begins an adventure closer to home, however, when she gets lost in the school maze one evening and stumbles across the mysterious Sisters of the Black Night – a hooded secret society that meets under the cover of darkness. Convinced The Sisters are up to no good Daisy enlists the help of her dorm mates – the 88ers – to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s an adventure that takes her through ancient pirate diaries, shark infested tunnels, perilous sword fights and on motorcycle chases through the stormy English countryside. When Daisy finally discovers The Sisters’ dark secret she has to make the most difficult choice of her life: having the job she always dreamed of, or doing what’s right. (Goodreads)


My Review

I picked this book up as a freebie after seeing it in a blog post or email, I can’t quite remember which. I have to admit that it was the great cover that hooked me (you have to check out the video about the cover. A link is at the end of this review). I don’t even think I read the blurb.

So, when I sat down to read it I had no idea what to expect, except perhaps that it would be a fun middle grade mystery.  Once I got into it, I realised that it was about a young girl from a background of average means, with above average intelligence and a good heart. When it was revealed that her mother had died of cancer I was sold, and felt a bond with Daisy, given my own young daughter’s recent battle with cancer (which she’s winning). Another issue that sits in this story is bullying … something that doubled my empathy and support for Daisy.

The plot cruised along as she settled into her new school, she made friends, and found enemies. I thought to myself that this was just going to be a cute tale of a new girl in a new school with maybe a little mystery thrown in. It’s not really what I’d normally get into, but I was cool with giving it a go.

Then when chapter 16 arrived, it all went into hyper drive. We were suddenly whisked from the pristine private school to a tale of pirates in a blur. One underlying theme that I noted in this one is definitely strong females – both good and bad. In fact, I think all of the main characters were female (I think it’s refreshing to see), which I’m sure would appeal to many readers bored with the usual male heroes.

As the pirate story progressed, there were some violent facets of the plot, which, based on the beginning of the book were totally unexpected. The change in pace hooked me and I became keen to finish the book and see how it all panned out. The plot was full of surprises and filled  with plenty of action that I didn’t see coming.

Daisy has a big heart and she’s faced with some very troublesome and aggressive opponents. Each page brings more events for her to prove, to make things right and end the reign of the baddies. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that this book had way more action in it than I’d expected. It had a cool back story that linked well into the current day.  Daisy’s story looks set to continue with future books.

In a nutshell

This was a real surprise package for me, given that I grabbed a copy based on the cool cover. Recommended for readers who love female heroes and action rolled into the one story.

 


Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.



If you’re keen to know more, then click below to head on over to
Daisy Cooper’s International Schoolgirl website.
 Daidy Cooper site


While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

The BookElves Anthology (Vol 1) + a great giveaway

A group of crafty authors that I have had the pleasure of meeting in the virtual world have decided to band together to showcase their talents in an anthology of holiday themed short stories. It’s sure to be a treat for readers.


Seven stories, seven situations threatening the festivities. Will the holidays be a disaster? Will families be left out in the cold? Will there be tears before bedtime, or will there be happy endings all round? The MG BookElves group brings you its first anthology of tales to enjoy during the holiday season:

  1. Reliable Clooney Dockins delivered his town’s mail on time for thirty-two years, until that strange and impossible Christmas Eve when he woke up late.
    » M.G. King – Fizz & Peppers at the Bottom of the World, Librarian on the Roof
  2. Max the Tonkinese cat finds Santa Claus on the roof and is whisked away to retrieve a very special message from another time and place.
    » Wendy Leighton-Porter – The Shadows from the Past series
  3. Shirley Link is an amateur sleuth who lives in a town that could use all the sleuths it can get! What is it about Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts that makes it such a hotspot for dastardly deeds? Even on Christmas Day?
    » Ben Zackheim – Shirley Link Detective Series, The Camelot Kids
  4. Champ may be a rescue dog, but he’s the best person around to stop the dognappers and save heartbreak at Christmas.
    » Fiona Ingram - The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Champ: My Story of Survival
  5. When the railroad gets snowed under, the two-bit town of Skunk Corners has to play host to a load of mighty difficult strangers. Can Big Al and the Ninja Librarian keep the season of goodwill from breaking into a riot?
    » Rebecca M. Douglass - The Ninja Librarian, Halitor the Hero
  6. Far away on the west coast of a western Scottish island, Dylan and Dougall face yuletide in Castle Haunn with no heat, light or food. Can Dylan get the message through to the mainland for help, or is there something nasty waiting for him in the hills?
    » Jemima Pett – The Princelings of the East series
  7. It’s Christmas holiday and Lily is stuck in a remote mountain village. With school out for a month and no internet connection, at first she wonders how she will fill the time. In this sweet romance, Lily discovers there’s more to gift-giving than just the giving.
    » S. Smith – The Seed Savers series

Each tale weaves its own seasonal magic. Each magician has already warmed the hearts of thousands of young readers with their stories. Enjoy these frantic races to meet the Christmas deadline while you curl up in your favourite reading spot this winter.


The BookElves Anthology Volume 1 is now available at the following locations as an ebook:

Apple iBookstore
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca
(for other Amazon stores change to your country code in one of the links above)Smashwords
B&N
and Kobo

and coming soon at other online retailers worldwide including txtrr, Scribd!, Oyster and Flipkart.

For those who love the feel and smell of paper, the paperback edition is also available at Amazon and at the Createspace estore.

Note: This great book is only available on Earth.


Not only do you have the opportunity to grab yourself a good read from the links above, you can also win yourself a copy in their giveaway (see below).

 Goodreads Book Giveaway

BookElves Anthology, Volume 1 by Jemima PettBookElves Anthology,
Volume 1
Giveaway ends January 01, 2015.See the giveaway details
atGoodreads.

 Click here to enter

Life’s Short – Live It – Let’s go to Orlando

The past year has been a roller-coaster ride for us. Since our daughter’s cancer diagnosis we’ve been through many highs and lows. We’ve met wonderful people who care for sick children and support their families, and we’ve met some great families who are on the same journey.

One thing that we have all learnt is ‘Life’s short – Live it’.

You never know what’s around the corner, fate will cast its spell and your life can change in an instant. We’ve always tried to build memories for our kids, and this past year has taught us that we need to continue to do so. Today we are in Orlando, Florida. A place that’s full of magical adventures and is an icon of family fun. It’s a long way from where we live in Australia, but it’s a place that my wife and I visited 15 years ago, before kids. We decided that our kids needed an adventure to outrank all previous adventures, and to hopefully help symbolise a new beginning and getting through the ordeal of the past year’s cancer journey.

These weeks in the land of fun will give us all amazing memories that we can relive for ever. As I said before, life is short and you never know what’s around the corner. We’d hate to be in a position to say ‘I wish we had done that while we had the chance.’

Here are some glimpses of what we’ll see and do while we are here.

 

This next part of our adventure is going to be an absolute highlight of this trip for me. I’m lost for words after watching these.


While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

A Salute to New York City

Well, now that this post has gone live it means that I’m currently trying to sleep or eat in the belly of a shiny flying machine. I’m on my way to one of my favourite places in the world, New York City.

Getting there is no taxi ride for us. We practically live on the opposite side of the globe, as far away from NYC that’s possible without being from space. It’ll take 3 flights and over 24 hours of continuous travelling before we arrive in the big apple. Then it’ll be straight out of our hotel into the lights of Times Square.

Another cool fact is that to get there, we actually need to go back in time. That means that when I left home today it was yesterday in New York, and when I get to New York today it will be tomorrow back home. I guess it’s the closest I’ll come to time travel (except for my books).

It’s been a while since we visited, 15 years in fact, and a lot has happened in NYC since then, so it will be great to catch those famous sites again, along with some new ones. The Statue of Liberty (missed out last visit), the Empire State Building, Times Square, Broadway, Central Park, and the 9/11 Memorial is on top of our list. It will be a time to reflect on an event that shook everyone around the world.

I know there have been many songs about New York over the years, and I thought it was the perfect time to share some of my favourites. So, please grab a coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy. And if anyone reading this will be in NYC this weekend, I’ll look out for you :)

Paloma Faith – New York

This is one of my all-time favourite tunes by an amazing artist.

Alecia Keys/Jay Z – Empire State of Mind

Another great tune that’s become a modern classic.

 Frank Sinatra – New York, New York

This is the most famous of all!

 See you all in NYC!