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.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

I have not read any of Penny’s previous books so the fact that this was a Chief Inspector Gamache novel didn’t mean a great deal to me. Chief Inspector Gamache is not a knock them down and then shoot them protagonist. He is thoughtful and ponders the meaning of the often contradictory clues in this entertaining mystery. Your are really not sure who did what until Penny wraps things up. A murdered stranger strains the bonds of a small, rural community in Quebec. Chief Inspector Gamache and his team descend on the community that apparently has figured prominently in past books.

Penny portrays the Chief Inspector as very introspective. He is a more cerebral hero than found in most detective mysteries. The setting was clearly described to the point that you could almost see the views. I enjoyed the characterizations, the duck and the horses. Penny inserted pathos and humor in this mystery.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of of Louise Penny


Web Site:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie

An officer in the Roman army, stationed in Britain, receives an urgent summons home. He finagles a questionable medical leave and returns to Italy with his “barbarian” girl friend. Once home he discovers that very little is clear and things have changed for the worse while he was away.

The main characters are quite clearly portrayed. I think some of the more minor characters could have been fleshed out a bit more. I found my mouth dry in the description of the desiccated travel. Downie provides a good story line and provides an entertaining mystery set in a truly ancient time. What is surprising is the similarities to current events with money manipulations, attorneys and painful consequences. Her history and setting were quite accurate from the hazy recollections I have of my two years of Latin.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Ruth Downie


Web Site:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dark Time by Dakota Banks

A young mother finds her self tied to a stake, flames caressing her ankles wondering what led to this ugly fate. The acceptance of her soul by a demon leads to her questionable reprieve. As harbinger of doom she spends the next few centuries as a tool of the despicable demon. Eventually the specter of spending eternity dealing out death becomes unbearable. Rebellion is the theme of the book.

A cynical, harsh world is portrayed by Banks. Her mood is dark as is the title. The protagonist struggles with her deeds and eventually seeks redemption. The characterizations are solid if a bit confusing. As urban fantasies go it had less fantasy and more urban than many I have read. The revoking of infallibility and dealing with a more credible skill set helps in creating a more believable Maliha.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of of Dakota Banks


Web Site

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why get a Home Alarm?

ADT did not pay for the "paid" blog thus it it gone. It was for a whopping $5.00 and I would not have written it if I didn't believe in home alarms but I certainly can't recommend ADT due to their inability to pay for blogging.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Are Soldiers by Harold Coyle

This novel could be a news article on a current conflict. A biological incident of bibilical significance in the middle east conflict threatens our own shores.
Coyle is now in his second generation of protagonists. Scott Dixon, the butt kicking army officer of old, has been displaced by his son, Nathan. Nathan, as a regular army officer, finds himself faced with situations outside of his experience. He is thrust into the role of commanding a group of men considerably different than his previous commands. Nathan is surprised at how different the National Guard is from his regular army experience. His disparaging mind set faces facts the he is challenged to understand. The realistic portrayal of the unrelenting hate between the people in the Mideast who have so much in common and so much need for interaction was grossly depressing.

Considering the intense participation, currently, of the National Guard in conflictual situations, the novel seems extremely current in spite of it's 2004 publication. Portrayal of the demographics, strengths and weaknesses of a National Guard unit seem quite accurate. The difficulties of intergrating National Guard troops with regular Army provide the primary theme while dealing with a middle east hot spot seemed secondary. I enjoyed the book, not as much as some others written by Coyle but I do recommend it.

Body of work of Harold Coyle


Web Site:none found

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

First, I am in awe that a kid wrote the book. Paolini started the book at age 15 and got it published at 19. It is a good story, a good fantasy and a terrific accomplishment. There is a dragon, evil dudes and lots of action. If you have read any of my blog, you are aware that I wax poetically about anthropomorphism and it’s story use. I love dragons and talking ones are even better. This is the first of the Inheritance series which now will have a fourth book that has not been published yet. This is touted as a kids book or young adult. If that is the case, I am apparently a great deal younger than my chronological age.

The best thing about this series is that my 10 year old grandson and I are reading it simultaneously. We call each other and discuss it. I would love the book for no other reason than the shared experience with my grandson. It is a good story and a good book, not great but I look forward to reading “Eldest” the next book in the series.

Body of work of Christopher Paolini

Review of the book:


Friday, August 14, 2009

Double Cross by James Patterson

Alex Cross is a frequent character in Patterson’s world. Cross is a psychologist cop or cop psychologist, he can’t decide on which role to play. Alex does a lot of introspection. Patterson, on the other hand,just likes to cut to the chase. Action, action and more action characterize the book. Psychopaths in abundance and the fear that someone he loves will be caught in the cross fire, (I know, puns should be avoided at all costs.) drives Alex Cross to distraction. There is something compelling about the book, in spite of the violence. I recommend it.

Body of work of James Patterson

Review of the book:


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Graceling By Kristin Cashore

Katsa thought she was a monster, a mutant that with extraordinary powers that enabled her to dominate others. The theme of Graceling isn’t radically different than that of Fire, Cashore’s latest book. Katsa was the enforcer for her uncle the king but she hated her duties. This tale is of her quest to free her self from domination and find true love.

Katsa’s introspection allows her to finally develop an identity she is happy to accept. Her redefinition of her grace provides her with a needed peace of mind. Once again, I found myself captivated with Cashore’s characters. She has that rare quality that enables her to imbue her characters with personality and life. Po’s nobility was inspiring. The plot was intricate without being confusing. “Graceling” is a veritable masterpiece and astounding since this was Cashore’s first book. I really, really enjoyed it. I mentioned in my review on “Fire” that I think Krisin Cashore is going to be a force in the Fantasy genre to be reckoned with; up there with Elizabeth Moon and Mercedes Lackey, she is that good! I stand by that statement, perhaps even more so since I see that it carried through both books. I await “Bitterblue” with great anticipation.

Just like “Fire”, I don’t just recommend this book, I insist that if you enjoy fantasy and astoundingly good character depiction, you must get this book!

Body of work of Kristin Cashore


Web site:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Lion of Far Side by John Dalmas

A suspiciously long lived woman disappears from her new husband’s bed. This is a saga of his quest as he crosses an inter-dimensional rift to secure her return.

The story was thought provoking. There are presently theoretical physics that suggest that multiple earths may exist so the plot isn’t as far fetched as it might have been a few years ago. I enjoyed the characterizations. The book transitioned back and forth from the two main characters and how they changed throughout their experiences. Their personal growth based on adversity was very satisfying. Macurdy’s transition from farmer to warrior was very dramatic. The setting being a somewhat distorted reflection of Earth was thusly somewhat believable. I find Dalmas’s work very entertaining. I thought this was quite a bit different than the Regiment series but vaguely familiar as well.

I recommend this book and the Regiment series as well. I will be tracking down the two ensuing books that make up this trilogy.

Body of work of John Dalmas

Review: Couldn’t find one.

Web site:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

He Who Sings Last by Lisa Laird Dirosso

A seedy crooner down on his luck is accused of murder. The story revolves around those who knew him when and those who know him now. The cop, the witnesses, the obsessed fan and trial feature a wide variety of characters and situations.

The book was laid out logically. You meet Jimmy Covelli and before you can find any sympathy for his character you find yourself despising him. John Vintoni, the cop, seems as obsessed with Jimmy Covelli as Miranda the obsessed fan. There were enough twists and turns in the plot to satisfy most mystery fans.

Murders abound in this book, every time you turn around you discover someone else was murdered, an interesting mystery and the first in a series.

Body of work of Lisa Laird Dirosso


Web site: none found

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother is a play on George Orwell’s Big Brother in “1984”. This may be the most frightening book I have read in decades. It is a near future United States where a paranoid security apparatus under the control of a political party “king maker” runs amuck. A valid terrorist act provides the opening for the universal implementation of draconian security measures by the “legitimate” government. The story is portrayed through the eyes and experience of a young hacker.

I have seldom been made more uncomfortable by a book. Most of the fiction I read has serious probability issues. Considering the recent history of our nation, there was a sense of probability in this book that provoked near despair. One issue I see with the book is that those who most need to read it and ponder it’s message are those least likely to read it. Technuts such as my self have a propensity to be fascinated by gear head protagonists. Technologists are often more open minded about social issues as well. There are in every society people who fear so greatly that they will gladly suffer abridgements of their constitutional rights to feel more secure. Doctrow clearly illustrates the fallacy in this belief through the experiences and mind changes of Marcus’s father when faced with enforcement actions he supported when they were applied to others. I found the book entirely too believable and the strength of character of the teenagers enormously admirable. Growing up in a time period where slogans ranged from “Better dead than red”, to “hell no we won’t go”, provides a perspective that finds Doctorow’s books premise a reasonable extension of an increasingly paranoid society.

The recent ironic brouhaha regarding Amazon’s exercise of DRM (Digital Rights Management) by deleting George Orwell books from Kindles is illustrative of a voluntary relinquishing of rights by consumers. Realistically most Kindle consumers didn’t realize that Amazon could access their Kindle and delete things they had purchased under the erroneously impression they actually owned it. In addition had they understood that action was possible, they certainly hadn’t anticipated a major company so flagrantly invading personal space.

It seems that there is a cyclic pandemic of lack of responsibility that invades our national psychic. We go through periods where large groups of people are not willing to accept responsibility for their own actions and not willing to accept the responsibility that maintenance of our way of life is a participatory process. Doctrow’s book clearly points out that when a majority of voters lack the responsibility to participate in the democratic process, the resulting elected officials reflect the views of a minority that may be grossly unpalatable to the lackadaisical majority.

Technology has made us feel more secure. The bank security camera that captures the image of the thief is a good thing. We transmit our financial data securely across the web daily. The Internet and social sites such as Facebook have played a part in the current Iranian governmental crisis. Doctorow uses his understanding of technology to show how this pervasive technology can be perverted to hold us hostage. He also shows how the pervasive aspect of communication technology today can encourage freedom.

Security is the linchpin of the book. Security of your data, your home, your lives and the fact that draconian security measures generally only offer a false sense of security is made clear. The abridgement of your rights may make me feel more secure, any infringement on my rights is an aberration of justice.

If you are going to read one thought provoking book this year, make it this book. It is easy to read, the characters are clearly people you know and see, and it will hopefully impact you sufficiently enough to accept your personal responsibility to defend the rules of law under which we live. This book truly illustrates the need for every citizen to accept the responsibility of maintaining their freedoms through support of the democratic process.

Cory Doctorow obviously believes in the ideas he promotes in the book. His belief is illustrated by his having the novel available on his web site as a free download. So if you don’t run out and buy this book, go download it and read it on your computer/ipod/iphone/pda.

BTW the book isn’t just thought provoking, it is also a darn good story.

I strongly recommend it.

Body of work of Cory Doctorow


Web site: