Review: “Venom Of The Serpent’s Cunning: Andy Smithson # 2” By L.R.W. Lee


I received a copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review. Even though it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

In May 2013, I read and reviewed the first book in this series, “Blast Of The Dragon’s Fury”. While I certainly enjoyed the story and Lee’s writing, I was very critical of grammatical and simple word choice mistakes. My concern was the target audience, middle grade students. As that age group is just starting to really explore and choose books that meet their specific interest areas, it was imperative to me the book not have so many errors. We certainly wouldn’t want the students presuming something like “calvary” being a group of soldiers mounted on horseback, rather than the correct “cavalry”.

I really appreciate the way Lee handled my critique. I have had authors take me to task for such criticism, but Lee met it head on, making sure I got a copy of the second book. She handled it all with great professionalism, and I commend her for that.

That said, I had no such problems with this book, so kudos to Lee for that. I certainly experienced fewer speed bumps, as it were, making the book a quick, smooth read.

In this book, Andy Smithson, the titular character, returns to Oomaldee for an unknown reason. Waiting for him are many of the same cast of characters from the first book: King Hercalon, his sorcerer sidekick Mermin, Andy’s friend Alden, and all the other castle staff who’ve come to love Andy.

Unfortunately, the vulture men are also back, including Razen, now a trusted adviser to the king. This position certainly causes Andy some pause during the story, not sure if he can trust Razen or not.

As the story progresses, Andy learns the king’s deep dark secret as well as the true cause of the curse that haunts the kingdom. The theft of a magical stone, which has kept both the king and Mermin healthy and immortal, causes both of them to become very sick. And away goes Andy, Alden and a cast of supporting characters, to fight the evil Abbadon, who is aided by the spirit of the king’s sister, Imogenia.

Will they be able to defeat Abbadon again, especially when the evil dragon is unlikely to underestimate Andy again? Will they accomplish their mission in time to save the king and Mermin? What lessons will Andy learn along the way? I guess you’ll just need to read it and find out. 🙂

Much like the first book, I really enjoyed this for the lessons it is trying to teach the young readers. Such lessons are honesty, accepting fault when you make a mistake, and acceptance of things you cannot change, while conversely being very determined to change those you can.

I like the way Lee fills in the story with other details, such as a game played in Oomaldee called Oscray. While it doesn’t have the magical elements of a game such as Quidditch, it’s still an egg-cellent game and is easy to visualize due to Lee’s narrative.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

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Review: “No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin …” By Molly Knight Raskin


Via NetGalley, I received a copy of this galley from Perseus Books Group / Da Capo Press. While I received it at no cost to myself, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

That said, I loved loved loved this book.

I imagine that most people outside of computer geekdom are probably not familiar with Danny Lewin or Akamai Technologies. But if you enjoy quick-loading websites with video streaming that doesn’t constantly lag, or if you are able to hit CNN and get regular updates when a huge breaking story hits, then you have Lewin to thank.

The story starts with Lewin as a gifted teenager, raised in a Jewish family. While he is in high school, Lewin’s family moves to Israel, where Lewin finishes his secondary education. Following high school, he tries out and qualifies for the most elite group in the Israeli special forces. The experiences he gains serves him well throughout his life, especially in the tenacity, determination and endurance necessary to excel.

Eventually Lewin takes a leave from the military to follow his educational dream: a post-graduate stint at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There Lewin finds an advisor and mentor in Tom Leighton, one of his instructors at MIT. Lewin is quickly identified as someone who has a lot of potential and ability, and people begin expecting great things from Lewin.

The roots of Akamai Technologies began when Lewin wanted to enter a contest at MIT for startup business ideas, primarily because he and his family desperately needed the cash prize to survive. Lewin’s concept was to tackle a huge issue on the Internet at that time: speed of delivery for content. When something became suddenly popular or breaking news hit the web, servers often buckled and crashed under the load. Lewin’s idea was simple in concept: devise a set of algorithms to distribute the load to cached copies of popular websites located on servers spread out over the country and, eventually, the world.

There begins the majority of the story, talking about how Akamai came to be, their meteoric rise and eventual leveling out with the dot.com crash on NASDAQ.

The book also covers Lewin’s eventual death, likely as the first victim of 9/11. Based on reports from flight attendants during the initial part of the hijacking of the first plane, Lewin was killed trying to stop one of the hijackers.

Which of course, leads to one of the big questions in the book: Can Akamai handle the huge media crush during and following 9/11, especially when they are still coming to grips with the loss of one of their founders?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was even more enjoyable because I’m not only a math geek, I’ve been involved in computers since I was nine (more than 35 years). But even if that wasn’t the case, it was still a great story about a young man who who driven from his teenage years to make a difference, which he certainly did in his 31 years.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)