Book Review: Frankenstein is Fascinating and Free

Frankenstein: The painting of a naked man, twisted so that only his back, right knee, and anguished face show.

Reading a classic book is not the same as reading something published relatively recently. You go in with different expectations, and sometimes maybe even with a  sense of obligation: “I’ve got to read this book so I can sound like I’m well-read” or “I’ve got to read it for a class.” I challenge you to read a classic book of your own free will and choice at least once a year. It’ll be like looking back through time, a way of gaining a “multi-generational awareness.” It can be quite fascinating. Case in point? Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s a fascinating story, not just because it’s 200 years old.

What Is Frankenstein About?

From Goodreads:

 At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but, upon bringing it to life, recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature he created turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. [It was] an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only [because it] tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever

The styles of storytelling have definitely changed in the almost 200 years since this book’s original publication; it was almost 100% narrative, which got tedious. But there is definitely more to the tale of Frankenstein that I’d originally thought.

What’s The Deal?

The Kindle version is FREE.

Who Would Like Frankenstein, And Why?

Anyone who wants to read a good book. I’m not a particular fan of the horror genre, but this was pretty tame.

a husband, wife, and five-year-old son making "strong" poses in the snow.

A True Infertility Story, Some Lessons, And A Way to Help

You know we all have stories to tell, right? Everyone has had an experience or experiences in their life that could be written into a story or book, whether it be memoir, self-help, fiction, etc. Yes, about a million books are published every year in the United States, but I’ll bet that there a billion more waiting to be told. Personally, I’d like to read them all! And I have a few to tell myself. These aren’t just the fiction stories I’ve been writing and telling you about. These are things I’ve lived through and know that others are experiencing as well. One of my stories is about infertility. And I’m telling it to you now that it has a happy ending, so that I can help others who are currently going through it.

My Infertility Story

Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Jamie and her wonderful husband Bruce. They had worked hard to build a stable and happy home that they could bring their children into. They had hope that they would have two or three children, but began trying and nothing happened. They tried for a year and nothing happened. Her doctor said she shouldn’t be concerned until a year had passed, so at the end of that year, she saw her family practitioner, who referred her to an OB/GYN. This OB/GYN claimed to know how to treat infertility, but just put her on clomid (an ovulation regulation drug), did a simple test to make sure her fallopian tubes were functioning properly, and sent her on her way. Nothing happened for another year and a half, except more disappointment. Jamie could tell that what the OB/GYN had prescribed wasn’t working, and that she and Bruce needed to change doctors, but there weren’t that many doctors specializing or board-certified in infertility at the time, and it was difficult to tell who they should switch to.

On the recommendation of a friend from Bruce’s work, though, they finally found a doctor who specialized in infertility. This doctor was a bear of a man, tall, big, and bald, except for a very bushy beard, and his practice was a bit unorthodox, but he immediately ran several tests on Jamie that showed she had endometriosis, corpus luteal phase defect, and a hostile cervix. Jamie and Bruce were very happy to get those diagnoses because with each one came a specific treatment and course of action. Within a month of having laporoscopic surgery to remove the endometrial scar tissue, taking more drugs, and doing artificial insemination, Jamie was pregnant!

For as difficult as it had been for her to get pregnant, her pregnancy was very easy. She had no morning sickness, very little energy loss, and nine months later, she delivered (by emergency c-section) a healthy baby boy. And for a time, everything was wonderful, even though that baby boy didn’t sleep.

But when he turned a year old, and she began to wean him from breastfeeding, she began experiencing drastic bouts of insomnia. This was different than the nights she hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after getting up with her baby several times. This was not being able to fall asleep at all until the wee hours of the morning, no matter how the baby slept. This was waking up several times a night for no reason, multiple nights a week.

After two or three weeks of surviving on 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night, Jamie went to see the doctor who had helped her and Bruce get pregnant. He immediately referred her to a psychologist and a sleep clinic. The psychologist didn’t know how to treat insomnia, but the sleep clinic doctor diagnosed her with Restless Leg Disorder and Excessive Limb Movement Disorder, neither of which totally explained why she was having such drastic sleep problems. He told her she would likely have these sleep problems the rest of her life, and prescribed Ambien to her. Well-meaning friends and family also suggested she take melatonin and diphenhydramine, all of which she did. They helped, but the bad insomnia didn’t go away. Jamie met with a couple of other specialists, but they didn’t change anything, not willing to mess with the hormone treatments she was taking to control her endometriosis, which is  usually a life-long condition.

This went on for a year and a half. Finally, in complete desperation, Jamie felt prompted to visit a new doctor, a female family doctor who had just opened a practice in Provo, Utah. That doctor ran several blood tests that showed that some of Jamie’s hormones were way out of wack, despite her hormone treatment. So the doctor told her to stop taking everything. Jamie did. Within a few weeks, the horrible, soul-crushing insomnia was gone. Needless to say, Jamie and Bruce were both very thankful for this new doctor.

After a few months, Jamie and Bruce began trying to have a second child. By this time, Jamie was 36 years old. They took the same course of treatment that they’d taken to get pregnant with their first child, given her diagnoses, but it didn’t work. They did it two or three more times, without success. They knew they needed to see another infertility doctor, but the one who had helped them get pregnant the first time had been convicted of prescription fraud and was no longer able to practice in Utah. They had friends and neighbors who had had successful treatments at a nearby university clinic, where, reportedly, the top infertility experts in the state practiced. They made an appointment, although they had to wait several months to get in because of the experts’ long waiting list. During that time, Jamie painstakingly assembled all the medical records pertaining to her infertility treatment thus far, and sent it to the expert they’d be seeing.

He didn’t read it. Based upon a cursory scan of her records and Jamie and Bruce’s initial consult with him, he prescribed several more rounds of artificial insemination. Knowing they wouldn’t work because they only addressed one of Jamie’s infertility diagnoses, they went through a couple of unsuccessful rounds, and then decided to switch doctors. The family practitioner who had ended Jamie’s insomnia did not have expertise in infertility, but she did refer them to a specialist at an Orem, Utah hospital. This doctor, just listening to Jamie’s long infertility history, immediately recommended an ultrasound. That ultrasound was done, and it was apparent to Jamie just by the look on the radiologist’s face during the procedure that something was obviously wrong. She got a call from the doctor who’d recommended the ultrasound saying that they’d found what looked like some big cysts, one of which had striations on it that might indicate cancer.

He referred her to a reproductive oncologist, who she saw immediately. Upon a physical examination, he could tell that Jamie had much more than just a cyst. One was probably a certain kind of large tumor, he said, and he was even able to twist Jamie’s insides around so that she could feel the tumor through the skin of her belly. She was immediately scheduled for surgery.

Upon recovery from that surgery–called a salpingo-oopherectomy, she learned that she indeed had a large tumor, called a cystadenoma, that had grown to 13 centimeters in diameter (about the distance from her wrist to the end of her pinky finger) in her right ovary. The tumor was benign, thank goodness, but shaped like a large, flat, sharp-edged disc, so it had necessitated the removal of that ovary and its accompanying fallopian tube. Despite an allergy to morphine being discovered during her recovery from that surgery, she recovered quickly, and she and Bruce were once again grateful that a problem had been once again been found and fixed.

A few months later, they met with a doctor at an IVF clinic. They were hopeful that they would once again be able to conceive, but Jamie now had three diagnoses, one less ovary and fallopian tube, and was 38 years old. This doctor did one IVF procedure, which failed, then told Jamie and Bruce not to waste their money on any more procedures, as they were unlikely to work.

While grateful for the one child they had been able to conceive and for those doctors that had helped her on her journey, they were devastated. They began the process of letting go of the hope they’d had for a couple more children, which felt to Jamie like grieving, and focused on making the most of every day with their son and good sleep. Those were, after all, huge blessings.

And then, six months later, completely on their own, Jamie and Bruce conceived another child. Five and a half years after their first child was born, their second and last child joined their family.  He was truly a miracle.

Bruce, Jonah, and Jamie, about eight months pregnant with Evan, our second.

 

Today, Jamie and Bruce have two boys: a 15-year-old and a nine-year-old. They’re extremely grateful for the lessons they learned during their infertility journey, which are:

Infertility Lessons

  • Realize that not all doctors are created equal. Do your research about effectiveness rates, board certifications (if any), years of experience, etc.
  • Be an informed patient. Read as much as you can from credible sources (i.e., not just random websites) about your symptoms, and make lists of questions to ask your doctor. Don’t expect them to be able to work magic with nothing but: “I can’t conceive.”
  • Do your research about insurance coverage as well. These days, medical insurance rarely covers most of the serious infertility procedures. Were it not for the $26,000 in infertility insurance coverage that Bruce and Jamie received from his employer at that time, their first child would not have been conceived. Consider seeking work at a company that provides infertility insurance coverage, if you don’t already have it.
  • Be grateful for what you have, even in the face of loss. This is perhaps the most crucial lesson of all, and maybe the hardest one to do. Even if you feel excluded from the “mommy club” through no fault of your own, there is always much to be thankful for. Every night of good sleep you get. Every kiss from your loving husband. Maple donuts. Mountains. Books. Health. Cheesecake Factory. Whatever it takes.
  • Get help, if you need it, whether that be mental health treatment, talking about your struggles with friends who will understand, both online and in the real world. This is not a trial to be handled alone.

 

Infertility Asistance

Jamie’s story–my story–is only one of many. In my neighborhood, ten other women went through infertility the same time that I did, and they now all have children. My niece, Jenica Parcell of ASliceofStyle.com, experienced it, and she now has twins. About 1.5 million women in the U.S. are currently experiencing it. Jenica became part of  a group that raises money for those 1.5 million women, so that some of them can get the assistance they need to fund:

  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

  • Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET)

  • Adoption costs

  • Surrogacy costs

BundledBlessingsFertility.com is now accepting grant applications from couples currently experiencing fertility who need help paying for the expensive procedures they need to gain the blessing of parenthood. They have been raising money, and now want to make sure the money they’ve raised goes to the people who need it. They need help getting the word out! I told my story so that they can hopefully have a happy ending to their infertility stories. Spread the word!

Jenica, holding Jonah, mine and Bruce’s first child.
a puff of smoke against a white backdrop, with "Survival" in green script below that

Book Review: Survival

It’s been an interesting week, with school shopping, some family drama, friends having drastic problems, and a bunch of job interviews. And it seems that the closer we get to the school year starting, the more time speeds up! I’m not quite ready! I mean, I’m excited, but not ready yet! In the meantime, I just finished a novella called Survival by Rachel Watts. It’s a post-apocalyptic Blade Runner-ish kind of book, and a compelling read.

a puff of smoke against a white backdrop, with "Survival" in green script below that

What Is Survival About?

From Goodreads:

The world has suffered economic collapse and multiple environmental crises. In a flooded city, Ava Murasaki is searching for her activist sister Sophia. Meanwhile, Valerie Newlin lives in the secure complex of the Scylla Corporation, the world’s only remaining multinational. There, she finds evidence of something horrifying in the Corporation medical research data. Set in a searingly real near-future, Survival is a story of what people will face for those they love. This is a devastating vision of a post-climate change world in which governments have collapsed and corporations rule with an iron fist.

It takes place in a flooded city where a dam failed five years ago and there wasn’t enough left of the government to clean up the mess. So some people moved to higher ground, but most just built shanties and docks on the water and took over the office towers that had once housed businesses but whose lower floors were now permanently submerged. And in the middle of the squalor sits a giant corporate complex on dry land, walled off and impenetrable, a city unto itself.

Although it’s this dichotomy that should drive the conflict of the book, it’s more about the dynamic between Valerie, a corporate scientist who discovers an awful secret about the corporation and wants to reveal it to everyone, and Ava, a young woman from the outside trying to find her sister. Their paths cross, their goals align somehow, and they have to work together to infiltrate and bring down the corporation.

Who Would Like Survival, And Why?

If you like dystopian books, you might like this book, but it’s not the dystopia of books like Matched by Ally Condie or Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. There is no romance or heavy-handed government. Thankfully, there’s no killing competition either, even though the title would suggest that there is. The characters are older and deal with darker things. There is some death.

If you like books written with style, such as Maggie Steifvater’s Dream Thieves, you’ll definitely like Survival. These lines are very representative of the narrative’s flow and imagery:

Ava stepped out...and walked through the floating suburb, feeling hundreds of invisible eyes on her. They settled on her, carved into her, made her brittle.

Keep in mind that it’s basically a short story, and comes with four other shorter stories by the author, which is part of what you pay for.

What’s The Deal?

The Kindle version of Survival is just $2.99!

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Profanity (d*, f*, sh*): 6

sex: none

violence: some

negative themes (greed, selfishness): throughout

positive themes (familial love): throughout

 

 

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.

Atlantia by Ally Condie: Well-Crafted and Inexpensive

Can you believe it’s time to start getting kids ready to go back to school? On the one hand, I’m looking forward to watching my oldest start high school and my youngest go into fourth grade. On the other, though, I’ve enjoyed the good times we’ve had this summer, playing at Lagoon, going to the movies, and taking “road trips” (i.e., fishing expeditions where I didn’t catch anything but everyone else did). I’m thankful for the relative peace we’ve had, and our health! I also love that I found Atlantia by Ally Condie, and that I can share a great deal on it with you! It’s such a well-crafted book.

What Is Atlantia About?

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.From Amazon:

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose. Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Who Would Like Atlantia, And Why?

I love when a well-crafted plot draws you in as it unfolds to reveal many pleats and twists, and then closes in around you as all those twists fold back in on themselves to make a nice little braid of detail. The fact that this plot takes place primarily in an underground city that is vivid and clear adds to the charm of this book. The only thing that keeps me from giving this book 10 stars is that, in the end, I couldn’t quite identify with the main character, Rio. I’m not sure that I could put my finger on the reason why, but it has something to do with a slight lack of emotion, or lack of the whole spectrum of emotions in her. Other than that, this was a great read. So, anyone who likes a well-written book will like Atlantia.

Also, if you like fantasy books like The Selection by Kiera Cass or the Matched trilogy, also by Condie, you’ll like Atlantia.

What’s The Deal?

You can get the hardcover version of Atlantia, which sells for $18.73 on Amazon, for $4.59 on Thriftbooks. Dude. Hardcover. You can get a used paperback copy in decent condition for $3.79.

The words "To Ride Pegasus" above the image of three women gathered around a man in wizard's clothes, and behind all of them, a horse.

Book Review and Deal: To Ride Pegasus, An Informing Read

Can I tell you why I’m fascinated by science fiction, as both a reader and a writer?

  1. it allows so many opportunities to explore the possibilities of our scientific knowledge, technology, ability to space travel, etc.
  2. In a way, it provides me with hope that we as a species will be able to overcome the problems and contentions we’re currently experiencing and emerge even stronger.
  3. It’s a relatively new genre, having only begun in the 1930’s and hit its stride in the 1960s and ’70s. Soft science fiction, which is the subgenre some of my manuscripts belong in, only emerged in the 1980s. This means there are so many story ideas that haven’t yet been explored!
  4. Women who have had successful science fiction writing careers are particular examples of perseverance and talent.

 

A picture of Ann McCaffrey in her later years, seated, with white hair, a multi-color jacket, and a cane.
credit: Wikipedia

Ann McCaffrey is one of those women. Before she passed away in 2011, she had a 46-year career as a science fiction writer, publishing 120 books, short stories, and novellas. She was the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list. I totally want to be her.

One of her many books, called To Ride Pegasus, is somewhat characteristic of the New Age of science fiction, during which writers in that genre placed a greater emphasis on style and storytelling than previous writers who had focused more on premise. To Ride Pegasus, as a representative of that age of science fiction writing, is a fascinating read.

What Is To Ride Pegasus About?

From GoodReads:

They were four extraordinary women who read minds, healed bodies, diverted disasters, foretold the future–and became pariahs in their own land. A talented, elite cadre, they stepped out of the everyday human race…to enter their own!

What Is The Deal?

You can get To Ride Pegasus for $3.79 on ThriftBooks, which is more than $4 less than the $7.99 you can get it for everywhere else.

Who Would Like To Ride Pegasus, And Why?

I would argue that anyone who considers themselves any kind of a science fiction has to have read at least one Ann McAffrey book, and this is a good one to start with. This isn’t my favorite of Mrs. McCaffrey’s because the conflict wasn’t particularly focused, the main point-of-view character switched to someone else a third of the way through the book, and the climax and denoeument took place in all of about five pages. This is a book you read to become a more knowledgeable fan of the superhero sub-sub-genre of science fiction, of which books like Steelheart are more recent, typical examples.

 

"Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression" over a pile of white word pieces with various emotions (i.e., "anger," "amusement") in big black letters on each tile.

Writerly Advice: Get and Use The Emotion Thesaurus

I don’t know about you other writers, but sometimes I’ve struggled to find different ways to show character’s emotions, rather than tell. I think it’s part of every writer’s journey to learn the difference between showing and telling (e.g., “she cried” vs. “she felt sad”) then think of the myriad ways in which emotion can be shown, and then  effectively show character emotions with voice and style. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, is definitely a book that has helped me on that journey, and I highly recommend it to anyone seriously looking to improve their writing abilities.

What Is The Emotion Thesaurus About?

From Amazon:

One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.

For each of 75 emotions, there is a definition and lists of physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term states of that emotion, cues of suppressed versions of that emotion, and tips. The lists of physical signals are usually the longest, which is very helpful, and the internal sensations shorter. As I’ve done more and more book research, talked to more and more people, and read more and more books, I’ve found myself adding to the list of internal sensations. For example, for the emotion of loneliness, Ackerman and Puglisi list these internal sensations (i.e., ways loneliness might physically manifest itself in someone, and how those physical manifestations might be interpreted):

  • a thickness in the throat signaling the onset of tears
  • a longing so intense it manifests itself as an ache or pain
  • insomnia
  • fatigue

As I wrote Stranger In My Own Head (#1 & #2), which is about a girl who wakes up amnesic, being shot at by her grandmother, and with a boy who helps her escape and says he’s her boyfriend, but who she has no recollection of whatsoever and who has a troubled past that keeps interfering with their attempts to get away, I felt like loneliness would be one of the many strong emotions she’d experience. She’s only ever able to talk to Lorne, the “boyfriend,” unsure if she should trust him, knowing she can’t trust her grandma, being an orphan, and wanting to find someone else to reach out to to feel safer. To that list of physical manifestations of loneliness, I added things like:

  • feels like she has a heavy brain
  • vacuous chest
  • heavy steps
  • lack of energy

It’s been very helpful, as have the other six thesauri that Ackerman and Puglisi have published: Emotion Amplifiers, The Negative Trait Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, The Rural Setting Thesaurus, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, and The Urban Setting Thesaurus. I highly recommend them.

What’s The Deal?

The Kindle version of The Emotion Thesaurus is only $5.99, as opposed to $14.24 for the paperback version.

Who Would Like The Emotion Thesaurus, And Why?

As I’ve mentioned, all fiction writers can benefit from this book, no matter the genre they write in.  I know that’s pretty broad, but it’s the truth.  Anyone who wants to avoid telling, clichéd emotions, or melodrama needs it.

The words: "readers pick up a book to have an emotional experience," a quote from The Emotion Thesaurus, over a fuzzy background with the open pages of a book at the bottom, a girl running through an amber field of grass, and a setting sun.

 

A Book That Is More Than It Seems: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This, by Patrick Ness, is an interesting book. Indeed, by its title, you would think that there was more to the book than what it appears to be about. Or you might think that the main character would be seeking something more than the life he or she has been given. You might even think that the theme—the underlying story, if you will—is that we all need to recognize that there’s more to this life than what we think there is. If you read this book and thought any one of those things, you would be right…in a way. It’s a book that some would say is slow-moving and simplistic, the story of a teenage boy who wakes up in a place he’s not supposed to be who strives to make sense of his environment.  But you don’t have to think about it much to realize that its message is more than that, a deep message about life.

What Is More Than This About?

From Amazon:

Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

Who Would Like More Than This, And Why?

Anyone who likes good writing, the kind that sweeps you along like a gust of summer wind, the kind found in books like The Giver by Lois Lowry or If I Stay by Gayle Forman, will like More Than This.  If you’ve read The Knife of Never Letting Go, also by Patrick Ness, you’ll probably like More Than This too, although it’s a different kind of book. Know that there are sci-fi-ish elements like those in Ready Player One by Earnest Cline, and dystopian elements like in Nemesis by Brendan Reichs. I can’t tell you what they are because that would give away a good portion of the plot.

What’s The Deal?

You can get a used copy of More Than This through Thriftbooks.com for $4.89.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Serving size: 480 pages (print), 5430 locations (ebook)

Swear words (d*, f*, sh*, g*d*): 70

Incidences of violence (suicide, murder, death): ~15

positive themes (familial effort & love, charity): ~7

negative themes (selfishness, criminality, meanness): 3-5 big ones

gay characters/mentions: 1 (m.c.)

other (mention of masturbation): 1

Visual

via GIPHY

Favorite Quote

 

Lego Superman melting an iron chest with his laser vision, while Lego Batman and Lego Robin look on.

Lego Batman for the PS3: Game Review and Deal

I mentioned before that I’m all about the Lego video games, so today I’d like to tell you about Lego Batman for the PS3. Of all the platforms and consoles that we have (PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Nintendo 64, Atari), I’ve enjoyed it for the sheer number of games available for it, the quality of those games, and its ease of use. I know it has its drawbacks, as any console does, but it’s worked well for me. There are 19 Lego games available for the PS3, and 3 Lego Batman games total. The first Lego Batman game came out on the PS2, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as sophisticated as this version. Both Lego Batman 2 and 3 are available on the PS3 for good prices, and their gameplay is similar enough that I think my critique of 2 applies to 3 as well. They’re both super fun games that you can get for less than $15!

What Is Lego Batman 2 About?

From GameFAQS:

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is an Action-Adventure game set within the Batman universe, and filled with LEGO versions of heroes and villains from the Batman comic series, working together/against those from the Justice League comic series.

It’s set in Gotham City and surrounding areas, and brings in not just Batman but 50 other characters from the DC universe. Some of those characters you get as you play through Story Mode, which is the first phase of game play in which you follow the story line of the game from beginning to end in 15 levels. The rest you get in Free Play Mode, the second phase in which you go through the story line again with freedom to switch between characters and explore more. Each character has different suits, abilities, and weapons, like wall-walking and freeze ray, so the more characters you acquire, the more you can do in the game.

Lego Batman and Lego Robin in the Batcave

Who Would Like Lego Batman 2, And Why?

Parent and kid duos: The game can be one- or two-player, so this would be a good game for a parent and kid to play through. The game’s rated E10+ for cartoon violence, but kids as young as 8ish will understand how to play the game. It has a split-screen that stays very close to each character, so if your kid decides to go off and explore, not caring about following the storyline or finding any collectibles, you as the parent will only have half a screen to play with, which might make you feel like you have blinders on. The split screen also slows down the frame rate some, but not enough to detract from the gameplay.

Lego Superman melting an iron chest with his laser vision, while Lego Batman and Lego Robin look on.

Fans of Batman: It’s fun to explore Gotham City as one of the Batman characters, and it’s a relatively good-sized hub from which all of the levels “branch off.”

Fans of RPGs: If you love going around completing quests and finding things, like me, you will love this game.

Fans of Lego video games in general…keeping in mind that you have to go through the entire world to find all the red bricks instead of them looking for them in the levels. This means that there aren’t as many fun puzzles and hidden rooms etc. as in other Lego games, so it’s not as “big,” but still plenty big enough to provide hours upon hours of enjoyment. It’s gameplay that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Also, the graphics weren’t as elaborate as some other Lego games, like Lego Lord of the Rings, but they were sufficient.

What’s The Deal?

You can get Lego Batman 2 for the PS3 for $14.99! New, not used! That’s such a good deal! It’s $19.99 on GameStop’s site, although you can get a pre-owned copy for $11.99.

Lego Lex Luthor trying to shoot Superman with a fancy laser gun. Wonder Woman gazing at Lex Luthor's tower, at night in front of a full moon.

The text "four ways to find more time to read" set over one picture of a bookshelf stuffed with books and two smaller pictures of people enjoying reading

Four Ways to Find More Time to Read

A while ago, I asked those of you that have a hard time finding the time, money, or wherewithal to read books why you have a hard time doing so. I genuinely want to understand why, and if I can and you want me to, help you. If I can help you find more time to read, make your book-buying money go farther, or increase your motivation to read, I feel like you’ll be able to enjoy life a little more. Let me address the time problem first, though. In my survey, the number one obstacle most respondents faced to reading was not having enough time. I often get asked how I find the time to read so many books given how busy my life is. My response is usually three-fold: I multi-task, read fast, and purposefully make time for something I enjoy. I suggest you take a similar approach, if you want to read more books (and you should, because they’re AWESOME!). Specifically:

  • Multi-task, which probably means you need to get Audible: You can read while you’re cleaning house, driving to and from work (i.e., without kids in the car), riding as a passenger to anywhere, exercising, and eating. Sometimes, when I’m cleaning house, I’ll have a printed or Kindle book in my hand. Other times, I’ll listen to audiobooks on Audible. It took me a while to warm up to the subscription audiobook service, but now that I’ve found ways to get the books I want through them, I love listening to audiobooks. It can really enhance my enjoyment of a book, especially if it’s well-narrated or particularly action-packed. If you sign up for the free trial, making sure to download the app on your phone, you get two free audiobooks of your choice and then, after 30 days, you pay $14.95 a month (I have mine set on auto-pay) for one audio book, with 30% off any additional audiobooks you wish to purchase during that month. You can cancel at any time, and if you do, you keep the audiobooks you bought. Since audiobooks can easily cost upwards of $25 each, I consider $14.95 a month a good deal. And it generally takes me about 3 – 4 weeks to listen my way through a book. If you can get audiobooks through your library’s Overdrive app, I suggest that too.
  • Read faster: Reading’s not fun if you feel like you’re plodding through a book, if you’re interrupted frequently, or if you have to keep rereading certain parts to understand them. If you increase your reading speed, you can fit more reading into what time you already do have. Try this exercise to train yourself to read better faster.
  • Purposefully make time for something you enjoy: This answer’s a bit more complicated because there’s a lot that goes into “purposefully” doing something and defining something you enjoy. Of the survey respondents who didn’t find lack of time to be their biggest obstacle to reading, many said they either thought it was “a waste of time” or seemed pointless if they could watch a movie, binge-watch Netflix, or do stuff outside. I enjoy an active lifestyle with my family, boating, dirt biking, fishing, and camping; there’s usually a long drive, though, to get to the places that we do those things, and those long, boring drives are when I read. I like some movies (obviously, because I talk about them on my blog), but I don’t watch a lot of Netflix and very little of regular TV. It’s a question of priorities. I enjoy escaping to fictional worlds and using my imagination more than I enjoy flipping channels or fighting with my husband for control of the remote.
  • Seek custom book recommendations: If you don’t think you can find books you like anywhere, trust me when I guarantee that there is a book out there for everyone. If fiction isn’t your thing, there are plenty of non-fiction how-to, memoir, or information books to choose from. If you want to understand more about human nature or historical events, there are lots of books I can recommend. This post provides several ideas for getting custom book recommendations that can be modified for any genre.

 

If there are any obstacles to reading that you face that I haven’t addressed here, let me know and I’ll help you! If you find the right book(s), reading can enhance your enjoyment of life in a way that no other medium can.

What are some other things that prevent you from reading?

"The One Memory of Flora Banks" in big blue letters over a cloudy gray background

The One Memory of Flora Banks: Book Review & Deal

“I kissed this man on the beach. I know I did. I know it because it is still in my head. I have to get to him. He will save me.” So says Flora Banks, the main character in The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. That one line summarizes the entire plot. The book is a look inside the mind of a girl with anterograde amnesia, whose short-term memory was destroyed during brain surgery to remove a tumor a few years prior to the beginning of the story. Her best friend’s boyfriend kisses her at the start, and that, of all memories, is the one that sticks, and she spends the rest of the book chasing it. It makes for an interesting read.

What  IsThe One Memory of Flora Banks About?

Here’s Amazon’s summary:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So, when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world—in Svalbard, Norway—Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. But will following Drake be the key to unlocking Flora’s memory? Or will the journey reveal that nothing is quite as it seems?

What’s The Deal?

BetterWorldBooks.com has a deal going on Pathfinder for $3.68, with free shipping.

Who Would Like The One Memory, And Why?

I read it because I was looking for a title to compare my YA amnesia book to in query letters to agents. Turns out, this book and mine are not similar at all. If you happen to be writing an amnesia book too, then read this. On the other hand, if you’re not a writer, but are just looking for an interesting YA read, then read this. If I had to pick a genre for it, it’d be contemporary YA because there are no fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, or historical elements.

Note: there are two affiliate links in this post, both to vendors of the books. This means that I get a small amount of money if you click on one of them to buy the book. This money helps me provide more book, video game, and movie reviews and deals for you guys. I only provide affiliate links to products that I’ve read/played/watched and think others will enjoy.