Required Reading

Life is complicated enough without getting into hotwater with federal agencies so: TAKE NOTE Many things I review I got at no charge in exchange for an honest review. Consider this as informing you that ALL things I review may have been gotten at no charge. Realistically about 60% but in order to keep things above board just assume that I got the stuff free. I do not collect information on my readers. If cookies or other tracking stuff is used on my blogs it is due to BLOGGER not ME. Apparently the European Union's new rules state I need to inform you if cookies are being use. If they are it isn't byu me, consider yourself INFORMED.
Words like, “sponsored,” “promotion,” “paid ad” or even just “ad” are clear ways to disclose that you’re being paid to share information and links so BE AWARE that some of what I write can be described as an AD by the government. BTW I will NEVER say a product is great, super or even acceptable if it isn't, whether I got it free or NOT!

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, What’s Truly Scary!

You know what is incredibly scary, truly frightening, sweaty palm, shortness of breath terrifying? The number of people who have bitched and moaned about what is going on in the world who won’t pick their butt up out of their Barcalounger and get out and vote. The voting age population for the last presidential election (United States Election Project for Nov. 2004) was 221,256,931. The estimated number of voters in the 2004 election who actually voted was 122,294,978. This is just shy of 100,000,000 people who were too damn lazy to cast a ballot.

The homily that you get what you deserve seems to be appropriate for our nation. All our citizens have the franchise. Our women can vote. Our people of color can vote. Our religious preference has no impact on our right to vote. There are many places in the world where that just isn’t true.

I was lucky enough to be the Director of Kids Voting for Southeast Pennsylvania in the 2006 election. I was astounded at the willingness to work of my 1,400 plus volunteers on Election Day, of the hundreds of teachers who supported the program and of the more than 16,000 students who cast ballots. We don’t have to be apathetic.

Hope is a big word, only four letters but a gihugeic word regardless. I hope and I hope you hope that we, as a nation, get out and vote. If we don’t, again we will get what we deserve. I don’t care if you don’t like either candidate, get off your keester and VOTE on Tuesday. Otherwise Halloween won’t be the scariest thing you have to deal with in the next year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tips for a Troubled Economy

In these difficult financial times we need all the help we can get. The market is all over the place. People are frightened about their jobs and their retirement. Automotive sales are in the tank and the pundits are talking recession. What the heck is the average person supposed to do about these seemingly overwhelming problems.

Avoid panic is the first step. I also found a web site called
Creative Payment that has a wealth of tips on dealing with the financial crisis. It deals with thinks likd credit card debt which might seem like common sense but apparently isn’t. How many people do you know who have maxed out not one, two or three but more credit cards? They warn against teaser rates on credit cards, variable rates and many more topics.

I found tips on budgeting and buying correctly. As well as consolidating debts with a variety of ways to decrease your overall debt and interest payments. There are instructions on how to develop a debt to income ratio. The obvious suggestion that being the best employee your employer can hope for thusly insures that you are the last person laid off.

Making money draws attention to what may again seem obvious. If you have any cash, now is a terrific time to buy some stock. GE is not going to go belly up. Satellite radio isn’t going to go away. If you have the funds, you can really buy a lot of stock for a little money. The people who panic are driving the prices down to bargain basement levels.

The site informs of non-profit institutions that can help to address financial instability and warns against exorbitant fees. There are suggestions on how to consolidate student loans to better afford the payments.

Overall I found the site informative. A great deal of the information was simply common sense but having it consolidated in one site makes it easier to use. I didn’t find any sales pitches or use us kind of connection, nor did I find who sponsors the site. They don’t ask for any information or sign up so it seems like a pretty safe place to go if you are looking for some help in dealing with this troubling economy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Getting The Most Out of Book Swaps

It seems reasonable to assume that authoring a blog on books one would be a bit obsessed about books. There are times were I wondered if I shouldn’t be looking for some kind of rehab center for bookaholics.

Book Swaps are occupying way too much of my time. I find myself lingering over the choices, savoring the selection and sighing over not having enough points to get every single book that I want.

I have discovered that there are ways to increase your take home pay (books). I discovered it first on TitleTrader. There are people willing to give you two books or even more for every TT point you have. My favorite trader is Dandylions, not because you get the most books but the books you get are in impeccable shape. I found the forum section has folks making offers on multiple books for one. Moving on to Paperbackswap, the forum section, Book Bazaar lists all the deals folks are giving. I have seen up to 6 paperbacks for 1 point. Sadly due to my total lack of interest in Harlequin Romances I did not take advantage.

I have not found any “deals” on BookMooch or Swaptree.

If you are willing to wade through the many posts and take a look at the book shelves of the folks posting, there are some astounding deals to be had. Me, I am still looking for the Eldorado of scifi/fantasy, I know someone out there will be offering 4 or 5 to 1 on books I haven’t already read, I know it. (sounds of Tinkerbell giggling in the background).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Natural OrderMage by L.E. Modesitt, jr

Hammor which has been “an evil empire” in previous books is explored in this book. Evil often is in the eye of the beholder. The protagonist is again an unlikely soul who is confused about his identify. Modesitt does this well, sets up a character to grow through out the book. The lines between good and evil are explored with the defining done more by action than word. Magic takes a back seat to character development and introspection by the protagonist. There is action and I think a bit more action would have helped the book. I am not sure you would enjoy the book if you aren’t a fan of Modesitt already. I am, so I did enjoy the book and wait not so patiently for the next volume.

Body of work of L.E. Modesitt

Review of the book:


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ariel’s Journey by Doug Kane and Christy Wood

This is the first book in the Ice Horse Adventures series. If this book is an indication of the quality of the series, then the series will be a hit. The book’s target audience is pre-adolescent through teen readers. I think they can easily expand their target market. While not a taxing read, the book provides food for thought on interpersonal relations as well as stereotyping. I am going to recommend it to my daughter’s book club for young mothers.

The main non-human characters are the Icelandic horses. This is a breed I am not familiar with but they are more than adequately documented by the book. The story line starts as an almost typical adolescent interpersonal friction scenario but develops into a delightful trip into fantasy. The young protagonists are thrust into a very adult situation and forced to not only cope but to master a very delicate and dangerous situation.

If you are familiar with any of my fantasy reviews, then you know I am strongly attracted to anthropomorphic stories. The relationships the girls have with their horses undergo some very interesting changes as the story progresses.

As an ex-guidance counselor and parent I can testify that the authors accurately portray the interpersonal relationships and the friction that can develop between groups of teens. The pollyanna solution for a confrontational situation suggested by one of the mothers leads to the development of the fantasy sequence.

I enjoyed the book and in no shape or form do I fit into the target market. I suspect that early teens and especially those into horses will find this book and the series just short of intoxicating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If you want change, then Vote!

This is the best advertisement for getting out the vote I have ever seen. Just fill in your name and watch the video.
AARP 08 Video
Enter your name to see who can bring real change to Washington.
First Name:
Last Name:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jeaniene Frost Interview (Author of the Night Huntress Series)

First I stand in awe of Ruthie at the Books, Books and More Books Site. Her productivity and creativity are prodigious. Then on to the interview, Ruthie has a great interview with Jeaniene Frost on her blot. Jeaniene is the author of the Night Huntress Series. [(1. Halfway to the Grave (2007); 2. One Foot in the Grave (2008); 3. At Grave's End (2009)] Ruthie is running another contest on winning one of Frost’s books. So click on any of the links to jump over to Ruthie’s site, read the interview and enter the contest. I entered and no offense, but I hope I win, the books look really good!

Jeaniene Frost’s Site:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Coyote by Allen Steele

Allen Steele is a new author for me. I have never read any of his books before. The story takes place in the not too distant future. Government has become entrenched and intractable. The government’s only starship is hijacked by dissidents and flown to Coyote, 200 plus travel years away. The interaction with the government, the interaction between those who support the government and those rebelling provide appropriate friction. The settlement and it’s rigors plus the alieness of a new world provide a good back drop for social interaction and personal growth. Steele does a nice job on his characterizations. This is not a grab you by the throat, I can’t put it down story. It took me awhile to get connected with the characters and their concerns. Once I got involved with the story it was compelling. Compelling enough that I have tracked down the next two books in the series. I recommend the book.

Body of work of Allen Steele


Web site:


Who can turn down free books? I love books, I love giving books and getting books. The other day my grandson mentioned he didn’t have enough money to get “The Maze of Bones”, a 39 Clues Book. I gave him the money he needed over his protests and told him anytime I can get him to read, I will. I think that Free books have an even better chance to get more people reading. It’s possible that only voracious readers will participate but what a good habit to feed.

Ruthie’s Book Reviews has a very cool contest going at the moment to win sets of books, not just one but SETS!!! I hesitate to link to her site ‘cause my chances of winning go down with each new entry but what the hey, click on her site name to get to the contest.

BookDads are having a contest too, for a $25.00 Amazon gift certificate. One way to enter is to recommend a book that has a good father role model as part of the story line. "Big Red" b Jim Kjelgaard was a favorite of my boys. A story about a boy and a dog and the boy's relationship with his Dad.

My very first contest, being a technogeek, I like gadgets. Here is how you can win one of my favorite gadgets.

A Tripplite Circuit Tester for FREE!

Go to

I will give away one Tripplite Circuit Tester each week for the next four weeks to whoever posts the most comments on my blog. Please don’t comment successively, if there are two in a row by the same person, it will only count as one. I will keep track of the comments for each week and announce each week’s winner here. Cut off time for comments for each week will be noon on Sunday. I will be counting comments on Sunday October 26, Sunday November 2, 9 and 16.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Deep Storm by Lincoln Child

I love a book that grabs you by the throat and shakes you if you try and put it down. This book slams through first gear and stands on 2nd. I really enjoyed it. (ya think?) Child presents a first contact novel in a “novel” way. The book takes place on an oil rig and an undersea facility. The technical aspects seem plausible and the characterizations are believable. As his other books the mystery has enough nuances that you are kept guessing clear up to the end and beyond. Somehow Child makes the bizarre and fantastic believable. I recommend you read it.

Body of work of Lincoln Child

Review of the book:

His site:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What or Who are you going to be?

Halloween is drawing nigh, the harvest moon is in the sky.
The goblins are groaning, The ghosts are a’moaning,
Witches are brewing and orks are spewing,
It’s time we decided what to wear, sly or scary or just debonair.
Yes, I am aware I should not quit my day job but since I am retired it is too late. Halloween has always been fun at our house. Our decorations have been up for a month already due to my grandchildren spotting them in our storage area. It is my youngest son’s favorite holiday and he has passed that passion to his children.

He makes a big deal out of this every year and admittedly his parties are over the top. I was first introduced to jello shots at one of his parties. (look them up, if you aren’t familiar with them) I am always flattered that we get invited since the primary attendees are considerably younger and usually looking for us to baby sit their kids. It is always a bit of a struggle to come up with a costume.

I found a site that seems to have something for everyone. Halloween costumes can be found at Halloween Adventure. They have costumes for the whole family and even has outside decorations. I like the beard and wigs for the ever popular hippy costume. This year I find myself drawn to the Joker. If you have been reading my posts, that should be a pretty obvious choice. Check out the site, you may find your alter ego is hiding in plain sight and you can be prepared for your personal fright night!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Deathstalker by Simon R. Green

Simon R. Green apparently has an enormous number of things he wants to say and his story line it truly empire inspired. This five hundred page book is the first of eight books dealing with the multigenerational Deathstalker family. If you can conceive of any type of bizarre being, mutant, esper, hero, alien, villain or setting it is probably in this book. Frankly I found it a bit much, too much glitz, too many weird things all together. On the other hand, I suspect he is just setting the stage for the next 4000 plus pages. I enjoyed the book in spite of my reservations. The valiant few anti-heroes facing the insurmountable forces of the galactic empire is always a good story line. The simplicity of the story line is enhanced or lost, depending on your opinion, by the frippery that is laid on with a heavy hand. Since I bought all eight books already, I have committed myself to read at least 1000 or so pages. The review on the next book should answer whether I read them all or put them back on a book swap. I recommend with the caveat that you prepare to be overwhelmed by entertaining minutiae.

Body of work of Simon R. Green

Review: I couldn’t find a review of this, his first Deathstalker book. Found lots of reviews on later books but nothing on this.

This site is a tribute site, well done but not owned by Simon R. Green

Friday, October 10, 2008

Art of SciFi/Fantasy

Authors always amaze me with their ability to paint word pictures. A good author can create a scene of such clarity it takes a monumental effort to discriminate between fact and fiction. The artists of scifi/fantasy remove the effort of imagination which, in itself is a bit concerning. However the end products are often worth the lack of self imagination.

Equally, I often wonder what some of the artists have ingested prior to the burst of creativity. Viagra, chili, tacos, triple espressos, drugs of less savory reputation or perhaps minimal oversight growing up must be responsible for some of the more “interesting” illustrations. On mr. mojo risin’s blog I found a link to a great scifi hardware site. shows a variety of craft suitable for practically any excursions in flight.

The art of Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo has been titillating (pun intended) us for year. Frank Frazetta has found new digs in East Stroudsburg, PA for his museum and gallery. About 20 years ago I took a group of Boy Scouts to visit the Frazetta museum of the time located over a Halloween store in downtown East Stroudsburg. There was original art work for Battlestar Galactica and the Conan movies. Conan’s sword from the movies was on display. (Photo courtesy of this blog) Mrs. Frazetta (honest!, that’s who she said she was and she also said she was the model for some of his female drawings, and she certainly could have been). She let me pick up the sword shown in many of the posters and hold it. Say what you want about Schwarzenegger, at the time, those muscles were for real, I had a heck of a time holding the sword upright with two hands let alone the one hand (I’m hardly diminutive)

There are a wealth of wonderful scifi/fantasy art out there. Science Fiction book club has a very good selection of art books if you are inclined to buy. I have dabbled a bit with art, dabbling meaning untrained, not so good but very satisfying on occasion. I drew all of these paintings and my late father painted all but the dragon horde one for me. I drew and painted the dragon horde. I also have two original sculptures. An art student in the 70’s traded me the helmet and rose sculpture for a red suede shawl branded with vines and flower that I had made. The, to my mind, Edgar Rice Burroughs space ship was in a local gallery. We walked in and I spotted it three rooms over and told me wife, I wanted it. It just hit me that John Carter would have flown in that puppy. Art does that to you, it can hit you, surprise you with the intensity of the hit and delight you for years and years.

My collection of dragons in many medias, my gargoyles, my Star Wars figures all are art to me. Gandalf, stands guard at my gate, George watches over my pool, Fred watches the back door. Luckily I have a very tolerant spouse who accepts that art is in the eye of the beholder and I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the art I love.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Panic or Greed Both Are Self Centered, Self-Fulfilling and Self Destructive

We live in the greatest nation in the world. I look at blogs in other countries where the blogger is in danger from his government for what he is writing. We have the freedom to express ourselves in so many ways.

At the moment we have a sizable portion of our nation trying diligently to destroy it. It is difficult to say whether panic or greed is fueling the current Wall Street nose dive. Greed obviously fed the conditions that led to our current financial crisis. Even the “rescue” couldn’t avoid the Washington game as usual pork.

It appears that a great many people can not see the benefit of our society and what it can be. Grabbing what they can, forcing down the market by selling to get theirs before it gets worse and fulfilling their own fears. It may be greed and it may be just sheer panic that the sky is falling and I better grab my chunk before it is gone. I don’t know the motivation; all I know is that the financial institutions that lead the panic and the poor suckers like me who watch their retirement swirling down the toilet are in the same sinking boat.

The damn boat is sinking because we refuse to have faith in our own country, our own people and our own destiny. I am not talking about believing in the lying, self serving weasels in Washington who let the greed ridden, golden parachuted CEO’s rape the financial institutions. I am not talking about having faith in our grand corporate edifices that reward failure at the top and lay off and penalize the bottom that does the actual work. I am talking about having faith that the average American still puts in an honest day for an honest dollar. I am talking about having faith in the small businesses of this nation that employ more people and do more good than those corrupt, grandiose, blue chip engines of corporate greed.

The big guys are only looking for how they can squeeze the last dime out of your widowed mother’s pension, they are not looking at the destruction they are doing to our nation and the world. As long as they get theirs, who cares about the rest of us?

We must care about ourselves. Have faith that we can survive this financial debacle. Stop running in panic and selling our stocks, driving down the market and fulfilling the over paid pundits predictions.

Just stop, take a breath, if you don’t sell it, you aren’t going to lose money on it. Historically our economy is strong. Historically the market will recover. We will be ok, our pensions will be there. Our retirement will occur. We just have to stop panicking. Withdrawing your money due to fear, selling your stocks due to fear just allows the vultures in the wings to pick up your investments for a dime on the dollar. The jackals will survive and flourish unless we curb our panic and face this financial crisis with common sense.

We, as a people, try our best to do good, to help others, to respond with aid to crisis here and abroad. We can not allow the greed and panic of a few to force us into a spiral of despair. Shelve that panic, you greedy fools stop your predatory practices, when you eat the seed corn you have no crops. When you destroy the economy and drag the world into a depression, you will have no safe place to spend your ill gotten gains. Buck up America, we aren’t wimps, we can survive this with common sense and a calm mind and faith in our great nation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Myriad by R. M. Meluch

I like military scifi. I enjoy Ing,Weber, Drake and Ringo. Meluch isn’t up to Weber’s standards but I enjoyed the book. The setting is the battleship Merrimack, a multipurpose, interstellar behemoth. The story line is the Merimack’s stand against an implacable foe. The ship’s captain is a much larger than life thoughtful berserker. The characters are a bit too stereotypical of their genre. I know pilots and marines and the majority of them do not fit the stereotype. The action sequences were well done and the political aspects seemed altogether too realistic. The main characters are likeable but not lovable. Elizabeth Moon and David Weber create characters that you really care about, Meluch not so much. With that said, I will be buying the rest of the books in the series, Tour of the Merrimack. It was interesting, kept my attention and well worth reading.

Body of work of R. M. Meluch

Review of the book:


Friday, October 3, 2008

Toe the line, or else!

I sent an email today to Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. She wrote a column that was critical of Sarah Palin. Today’s column dealt with the reaction she got from writing that column. She has written columns for over 20 years and she was shocked at the tone of her mail. It was not just negative; it was “vicious and threatening”. The rest of today’s column dealt with her feelings on the demise of civil and intelligent public discourse.

Parker a conservative apparently shocked her less flexible supporters who no doubt felt betrayed when she responded negatively to the current conservative heroine. Regardless of what you feel about Kathleen Parker or Sarah Palin, it is difficult to conceive of the necessity of writing a columnist threatening mail because of their opinion.

Why, pray tell, am I discoursing on this on a blog devoted to books. Perhaps the same narrow minded, hate spewing, mail writing individuals are the same “well read” book banners we see at school board meetings trying to remove classic literature from our libraries.

Literacy is not the answer to everything but if our children are exposed to different ideas and thoughts through the books they read, perhaps they will grow up with a greater tolerance for those who disagree with them. Our nation was founded on freedom, freedom of speech and expression. The lack of civility, of politeness is despairingly common.

The next time you feel an urge to work over Bill O’Wrongly as he shouts over his guests, or to spill beer on an opposing sports fan, consider for a moment that behaving as a boor seldom prevents a boorish response.

Righteously assuming that if you are reading a book blog, you are literate and based on literacy, reasonably intelligent and open minded; please do what you can to promote reading with your kids, your peers and your community. We must not become a society of illiterate boors, spewing hate, banning books and running rough shod over anyone who disagrees with our opinions.

As I stopped above, it occurred to me that wasn’t a particularly hopeful blog. On a note of hope, look at the number of people who are blogging on books. Look at the number of sites promoting books. The barbarians have not overrun us yet! There are still huge numbers of good people wishing and working for a better life and better society. The frequency of kind words and good thoughts I see on the book swap sites I peruse help me to realize that we still have peers of good note, who are working to make a civil society.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver

This is a Lincoln Rhyme mystery. Lincoln is a quadriplegic forensic investigator. The plot is focused on illegal Chinese immigration. There is lots of action and many twists and turns. Deaver does a really good job on keeping you guessing at what is coming next. I really like a mystery that keeps me questioning what is going to happen next. Deaver also does a nice job at expressing the frustrations and concerns of someone who is confined and determined not to be “special”. I recommend the book.

Body of work of Jeffery Deaver

Review of the book:
Page down, it is the third one down.

His site: