Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Peshawar Lancers By S. M. Stirling

Stirling has proposed a post meteoroid holocaust world with the holocaust set in the late 1800’s. The world has recovered to the point of early 1900’s and the novel deals with the political ramifications of the dramtically changed world. Characters are well done, story is exciting, I had trouble putting it down. My biggest critisim is that there is no sequel. This book screams for a sequal, what’s the point of getting you into a very interesting environment, enticing you with good characterizations and then leaving you hang. Stirling’s characters exhibit the characteristics that I think exemplify scifi and fantasy, courage, loyalty, nobility, concern for mankind, all things that are often hard to find in current fiction as well as in the real world. Read this!

Body of work of S.M. Stirling


Web Site:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sacred Stone by Clive Cussler & Craig Dirgo

Sacred Stone was ok. The story was entertaining but if you weren’t already familiar with a lot of the characters, you would be uncertain of their identity. The book read choppy. The chapters were often very, very short, as in one or two pages. The premise was excellent but the delivery was less than elegant. Dirk Pitt was supplanted by Juan Cabrillo, chairman of the Corporation. The Corporation is a multi-tasking band of mercenaries with good hearts. They are pro-USA but will work with some of our allies. They have close ties to the government and often receive sub-contracts from organizations like the CIA. Actually the subcontracting theme infused a sense of realism to the story considering recent government and corporate behavior. The book is worth reading, the premise is altogether too likely but this book isn’t up to the Cussler standard of excellence.

Body of work of Clive Cussler

Review of the book:

His site:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Titan A.E. An Animated Treat

Titan A.E.
This animated movie has been around since the year 2000 and I finally got to see it. Hulu has it on their site to watch for FREE. The animation is good, dated compared to some recent features but still good. The story line is similar to the Battlestar Galactica series but it wraps it up in a nice watch able package in just over 1.5 hours. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and it is certainly one you can watch with the kids, although the Dredge (evil energy beings) may scare the very little ones. I am surprised this wasn’t a bigger deal at the box office. The premise is that mankind is making a splash in the interstellar community and the Dredge decide that man’s potential is so great they must destroy Earth before man can achieve their potential. They succeed in destroying the earth (first few minutes so it really doesn’t screw up the plot for you) but not before the Titan A. E. escapes along with a host of refugees. The rest of the movie is about the search for the Titan, the most advanced ship/machine in existence and what happens when it is found. Nuke some popcorn, pull up your computer and watch this puppy, if you have seen it, watch it again, if you haven’t seen it, you will enjoy the premise that we (mankind) have the potential to work together and achieve greatness.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Videssos Besieged by Harry Turtledove

The conclusion of The Time of Troubles series, this book wraps up the loose ends and brings closure to the protagonists. Of course closure is relative when dealing with Turtledove, your never sure what might come next. The 4th and final book is told from Maniakes’, the Videssosian Avtokrator, point of view. The every other book shift in bias from Abivard, the general, to Maniakes provides ample opportunity to ponder how point of view mandates decisions. The story, again, if very good and the premise provides a banquet of food for thought. A well done series.

Body of work of Harry Turtledove

Review of the book:


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Read an author I have never read and write a review. For a voracious reader, that is a bit easier said than done. I found a book by Kristine Kathryn Rusch on my shelf and wondered who she was and how I got it. I have no recollection of either.

The book is “The Disappeared” a retrieval artist novel. Apparently Rusch is a well known, award winning author that I just haven’t read before. The book is a detective story set in a future where we have interstellar relationships with a wide variety of aliens who have radically different views on the law and the legal process. In the effort to maintain positive trade agreements, our planetary government agrees to respect and honor each Alien’s legal system regardless of how it compares to our own system of law. The morality aspect of different cultures is heightened by the fact that many of the Aliens have a sense of morality radically different than our own. There is an obvious comparison with NAFTA and our governments support of immoral regimes for the sake of their oil. The implications on an interstellar level may be positive but there is a severe toll on the personal level for those responsible for enforcing some of the more onerous laws.

The story specifically addresses two cops, deep in the trenches, fighting the good fight that have to enforce edicts they find personally abhorrent. There are several vignettes involving different people and aliens that illustrate the author’s point. Overall it was a good story. I found the introduction of the characters and the method used a bit lacking in depth. Short segments introduced the characters that were later fleshed out. I felt that a little more meat in the introduction would have made the characters more identifiable later. I wouldn’t read the book again and I won’t be going out looking for more from this author. It was a decent story but with so many great books out there, I can’t say I want to settle for just ok.

Body of work of Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Web Site: Doesn’t appear to have one.

Review: I broke my own rule in order to submit a review for where they have monthly Book Worms Carnival featuring different themes. The theme for September was to review a book of an author I never read before.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Starfist First To Fight by David Sherman And Dan Cragg

I have mixed feelings about the book. I have three more in the series aand I will see how they work out. I’m enamored with David Weber, Dean Ing, David Drake, Stirling and frankly they grab you earlier and engender more emotion. However Sherman and Cragg do lay a very thorough and realistic foundation. Marine Corp fans should find their prose realistic. The story line focuses on a detachment of Marines, recognizable and related to current day Marines. Not a lot of techy gadgetry and a focus on the brotherhood of warriors. Good action when it finally started to pop but a long time to get there. Granted that is more realistic than the constant action featured in some military fiction. I recommend it with reservations, I am going to read more of the series before I make my final decision. The series does have enough die hard fans to have several sites devoted to fandom activities so it’s appeal may not be evident to me.

Body of work of Dan Cragg

Body of work of David Sherman

Review of the book:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Swaptree Not So Hot

Swaptree is an online swapping service where you can swap CDs, DVD’s and books with folks from all over. Premise is good, site is a bit sketchy, customer support is non-existent. SWAPTREE has no tech support, none, butkus, zip, nada, zero support. I have emailed their support, their contact or anyone who might answer and there is nobody there. If they have support then apparently they really are terrible since I got no response on any emails I have sent.

I wonder who did they pay off on Good Morning America to get recommended. Good Morning America, what were you thinking? There are several much better sites that actually have human beings involved with them.

I have a book on my wish list, Swaptree keep offering me a copy of the book that says specifically the pages have been waterlogged but it is readable. Admittedly I am a bit anal about books. (Probably more than a bit) I have told them at least four (4) times that I don’t want to swap for that specific book due to it’s condition. Every 8 or 10 days they try and get me to take it again. So their software needs some attention since there is no human being there to intervene as a response to my email asking them to stop offering me that book. They also sternly warn me that I will get less trades if I keep turning down books on my wish list, in spite of the fact it is the same blasted book, over and over.

Now if their software was better they could at least pretend to respond to email with automated responses but they aren’t even that good.

I have found Book Mooch and PaperbackSwap much better. I have gotten a much friendly reaction from the people using both those sites than I have from Swaptree. Both Book Mooch and Paperback Swap allow you to send books to others and bank the resulting points to use when books you want become available.

Titletrader is a bit different. The site looks like it would have been right at home on Compuserve bulletin board 25 years ago. The major benefit to TitleTrader is that you can trade “stuff” for books. Of course you can trade stuff for stuff too but I am the book nut, remember! I have posted electronics on there and you get points when someone takes what you posted. You can then use those points to redeem books or stuff. So far I have shipped some stuff and haven’t gotten any books yet, but I am hoping it works.

In all fairness to SwapTree, I like being able to swap my un-listened to CDs for books. Their concept is cumbersome though. You can’t bank points like the other services, you must have someone who wants what you have before you can initiate a trade. Sometimes the trades are three way or even more. You can see that complicates matters and means that trades occur far less often than on the other sites I have mentioned.

On the unlikely chance that anyone at SwapTree reads and or reads this, you really need to try answering your email. A total lack of concern for the people using your service will eventually force your demise, particularly when there are similar services that are substantially easier to use and have a responsive customer service department. (or at least someone who listens)

Will I keep using SwapTree? I will probably continue to use them since I like trading CD’s for books. Am I happy with them? You be the judge.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Contagion by Robin Cook

Contagion sets the stage with some incidents in the beginning of the book that eventually you come back to see their impact. The book deals with managed health care and a thinly disguised disdain for the same. The protagonist struggles with his emotional stability based on personal loss. There is plenty of action, social interplay, socio-racial commentary and intrigue. It was entrancing but uncomfortable to read, primarily due to the plausibility of the premise.

Body of work of Robin Cook

Review of the book:

Site: Amazingly doesn’t seem to have one.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ordermaster by L.E. Modesitt, jr

Modesitt does a lot of thought provoking as he entertains. His whole “Order/Chaos Saga of Recluce” series makes you think. This particular story is about a common man who discovers he is uncommonly gifted. The transition from someone who society works it’s way on to someone who changes society is edifying. Lots of action intermixed with a modicum of pondering. You find yourself pondering your own society as the protagonist ponders his. Magic (order/chaos) abounds through the book. The book can be read as a stand alone book but I would highly recommend reading the entire series. BTW, I seldom read any book twice, I just reread this one.

Body of work of L.E. Modesitt

Review of the book:


Monday, September 1, 2008

The Thousand Cities by Harry Turtledove (Book III of The Time of Troubles Series)

The third book in the Time of Troubles Series which deals with a Byzantine Empire time period goes back to the point of view of the Makuran’s general Abivard. In the first book Abivard’s viewpoint as one of the barbarous hill people looked at the Empire and the nomadic tribes. The second book was written from the perspective of the Videssos Empire. Turtledove shows how perspective so clearly shows who is right, who is wrong, who is good and who is evil, from their own perspective. To carry this a step further one might suspect that Turtledove is trying to make a point that there are two sides to every conflict and the ability to see another’s point of view might help in conflict resolution. Of course, it may just be a good story. The political intrigue, the erratic nature of the rulers all make for an interesting read.

Body of work of Harry Turtledove