Welcome!


Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

booklore.co.uk
midwestbookreview.com
2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
Librarything.com
Goodreads.com
Bookwormr.com
Books-a-million.com
Reviewcentre.com
Onlinebookclub.org
Pinterest.com
and on Twitter
(seriously)

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lies to Die For

Lies to Die For, Todd M. Thiede, CreateSpace, 2013

This present-day murder mystery is about a small town being menaced by a serial killer, soon after putting another serial killer in jail.

Detective Max Larkin of the Rockton Police Department has just returned to work after taking a mandated psychological leave. Larkin and Jesse, his partner, are investigating a double homicide. After a third murder, suspicion falls on Liam, the hot-headed estranged husband of one of the victims. The circumstantial evidence is pretty strong, but it's not enough to force a confession. Larkin, whose instincts about a person's guilt or innocence are usually very good, is convinced that Liam is innocent. Jesse is just as convinced of his guilt.

After Liam goes to jail, there is another dead body. Suspicion points in a totally different direction, toward someone a lot closer to Max and Jesse. After that possibility is no longer a possibility, another person is found dead. Can Max and Jesse stop the killer before Max becomes the next victim?

This one is really good. It feels realistic, and it has lots of twists and turns. The reader will be kept guessing until the last few pages. It is very much worth reading.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lifelong Sobriety

Lifelong Sobriety: How to Stop Drinking and/or Using Drugs, Bajeerao Patil, BRP Books, 2013

Why are some people able to permanently give up drugs or alcohol, and start to turn their lives around, and some people just can't do it? Are those people destined to be alcoholics or junkies forever?

You, the addict, have to want to change; today, and tomorrow, and the next day. There will be setbacks and relapses. Are you going to give up because you fell "off the wagon" once, or are you going to re-focus your efforts to never let it happen again? Don't be afraid to ask for help. If your friends and family see you making an honest effort to change, they might be willing to meet you halfway.

There are many things that you, the addict, need to stop doing, now. First and foremost, stay away from your drinking or drugs buddies. Stop being so self-centered. Denying that you have a problem, when everyone around thinks otherwise, helps no one. Drop the "My way or the highway" attitude. Stop lying to others. You are responsible for your actions, and no one else. The world is not out to get you.

Anger, depression and anxiety are normal human feelings. The way a person deals with those feelings is what, figuratively, separates the men from the boys (or the women from the girls). Once you are clean, what do you want to do with your life? Come up with some life goals. Learn to follow directions, and honestly share your feelings. Last but not least, learn to recognize the situations that could lead you back to using drugs or alcohol.

This is general book, intended to start a person on the road to sobriety, and not so much a detailed, everything-you-need-to-know book. The chapters are short, and it is very easy to read. It is highly recommended for everyone, including addicts and those whose family member is an addict.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Courvalian: The Resistance

Courvalian: The Resistance, Benjamin Reed, Amazon Digital Services, 2013
(Reviewed by Paul Lappen - Kindle Book Review)

First of a series, this novel is about three brothers who are thrust into a very strange world.

Charles, Matthew and Travis are experienced winter hikers and campers. On a recent trip, there is a cave-in in the cave where they were sleeping. Next thing they know, they are in a place called Archelon, which is in the middle of rebellion against the tyrannical king. With no memory of their previous lives, the three join the Resistance. Matthew is tasked with delivering a vital message to Fort Renee, several days away on foot. After many trials and tribulations, Matthew is successful in delivering his message. Meantime, Charles and Travis go to a place called Lake Victorbland, which is something like Resistance Headquarters.

While Matthew is at Fort Renee, several thousand of the king's men stage an attack, along with mentally altered people called Mirages. The attack is barely repulsed. It is decided to send a small group of people, including Matthew, to Lake Victorbland, where he is reunited with Charles and Travis. Several years ago, Kurtax, the overall commander of the Resistance, was forced to abandon a place called Gowand's Keep. He has vowed to get it back, regardless of the cost. The three brother spend several days watching the castle, looking for any weaknesses or "back doors". There are none. Any conventional attack on Gowand's Keep would be a suicide mission. What about an "unconventional" attack?

This is a strong, well-done piece of sword and sorcery fantasy that is heavy on the "sword" part. It easily rates 4 stars, maybe even 4.25 stars. The reader will not go wrong with this one.

(The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Great Cholesterol Myth

The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease - and the Statin-Free Plan That Will, Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra, Fair Winds Press, 2012

"High cholesterol and saturated fat are the major causes of heart disease." That statement has been a medical article of faith for many years. According to the authors of this book, it is also very wrong.

There are several different types of "good" and "bad" cholesterol (some "good" cholesterol is bad for the body, and some "bad" cholesterol is good for the body), so a single number for good and bad cholesterol each is rather worthless. People with really low cholesterol numbers can easily get heart disease, and those with really high cholesterol numbers can live their entire lives without one bit of heart disease. Why do some native cultures, who practically live on saturated fat, have little or no heart disease?

The real cause of heart disease is chronic inflammation, which comes from damage caused by free radicals (the book explains everything). Sugar is much more harmful to your heart than fat. It contributes to inflammation in the walls of your arteries. It increases the amount of insulin in your blood, which increases cholesterol and raises your blood pressure. It also raises your level of triglycerides, which is a much better indicator of heart disease than cholesterol.

What is the problem with statin drugs, the usual treatment for heart disease? Their benefits have been extremely exaggerated. The brain depends on cholesterol to function normally. A common (but under-reported) side effect of statin drugs is sexual dysfunction. Most doctors dismiss complaints of side effects from statin drugs, and don't report them to the FDA. The only people who should take statin drugs are middle-age men with documented coronary artery disease.

The book mentions tests that are much better indicators than cholesterol of heart problems. Ask your doctor to order them. Get rid of sugar, soda, processed carbohydrates and trans fats from your diet. Eat more vegetables, berries, nuts, beans and dark chocolate. If you can add only one supplement to your diet, make it Coenzyme Q10.

This book easily reaches the level of Must read, especially for anyone on a statin drug. It is an eye-opener that will give the reader plenty to discuss with their doctor at their next appointment.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Digger's Story: Surviving the Japanese POW Camps was Just the Beginning

Digger's Story: Surviving the Japanese POW Camps Was Just the Beginning, David Barrett & Brian Robertson, Amazon Digital Services, 2012 
(Kindle Book Review)

This is the chronicle of one person's life as a Prisoner of War in World War II, and his life after he returned home.

Barrett was your average Australian teenager who enlisted in the military for some adventure, and to escape a difficult home life. He found himself in an ambulance corps in Malaysia, near Singapore. The average soldier knew very little of what was happening, but they were sure of one thing. The British commanders in the area were doing a terrible job. They were more interested in retreating than in actually fighting the Japanese. Everyone knew that surrender was inevitable.

For the next three years, Barrett was a prisoner of the Japanese, "helping" to build a railroad through Burma and Thailand. To say that conditions were beyond brutal and inhuman is much too generous. He was part of the medical detail, doing whatever he could for the very sick. Barrett spent his days digging mass graves outside the camp, for the thousands who dies of causes ranging from starvation and overwork to diseases like cholera and dysentery. After the war, Barrett joined an Allied commission that traveled that same railroad, looking for mass graves. The intention was to look for evidence of Japanese war crimes, and to give those who were buried a final bit of recognition and dignity.

Fast forward to the 1980s. After a successful career in sales, Barrett learned of a group of Canadian ex-POW's who, through the United Nations, demanded reparations from Japan. Why couldn't Australian ex-POW's do the same thing? Barrett put together a Reparations Committee, and found that the vast majority of ex-POW's were totally in favor. Th Executive Committee of the National Ex-POW Association did not agree. Secret negotiations with the Japanese Government start moving in a direction that Barrett does not like. Does he stick it out? Does he ever reduce his hatred of all things Japanese?

This book easily gets 5 stars. It does not go too far in any one direction, but is very well-done chronicle of a person's journey to hell and back. It is highly recommended.

(The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Monster Loyalty

Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanatics, Jackie Huba, Portfolio/Penguin, 2013

Lady Gaga is one of the most popular pop stars in the world. Her strategy for getting, and keeping, extremely loyal fans is incredibly successful (with 33 million followers on Twitter, she must be doing something right). This book shows how businesses of any size can copy her strategy.

First of all, who are your passionate fans, those whose world revolves around your brand? Are blogs or Facebook pages dedicated to your brand? Do people call your toll-free number, or send emails, with suggestions on how to improve your website? Those are your One Percenters. Find them, and don't let go. It's easier and cheaper to keep a present customer than to create a new one. (How is your customer service? What do review sites like Yelp say about you? It's pretty hard to get, or keep, passionate fans if your customer service stinks.)

What are your company's values? Making money is what you do, how and why you do it is what is important. Find a way to bring those passionate fans together, whether online or in person. Add an online forum to your website, or solicit testimonials and spread them throughout your marketing materials.

This group of fans is going to need a name. If they haven't decided on a name, ask their input in coming up with one. When it comes to deciding on a symbol for this group, watch how your customers use (or don't use) them; some symbols just won't work. Be open to adopting fan-created symbols.

Find a way to make your customers feel special, to put them in the spotlight. Invite them to special VIP events, or put them on your products. Give those passionate fans something to talk about, but don't be outrageous just for the sake of being outrageous. It could be something really simple, like one new design feature.

This book is highly recommended for businesses of all sizes. It won't be fast or easy, but if Lady Gaga can create legions of loyal fans, why can't you? It is also highly recommended for those, like yours truly, whose only exposure to Lady Gaga has been through the media. It was very surprising to learn that she is  much more than just a pop star.

What God Really Wants You to Know

What God Really Wants You to Know: God's Universal Truths Shared by All World Religions, C. David Lundberg, Heavenlight Press, 2009

For hundreds of years, mankind has used religion as a source of division and a justification for war (our God is better than your God). This book looks at the very deep similarities between the world's major religions.

Each of the thirty-three major points are illustrated with quotes from each religion's holy books. Along with the Talmud, Bible and Qu'ran, there are also quotes from the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism), the Dhammapada (Buddhism), the Tao Te Ching (Taoism) and the Doctrine of the Mean (Confucianism).

Here are some of the areas in which the world's religions are similar. Life, with God, is Good, God gave us free will, so we are responsible for all we create. We are a part of God. There is One, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God, who created all good things. Maintain inner peace. Give praise and gratitude to God for all the blessings of life. God is Everywhere and Eternal. Live with moderation and balance in this world. Your body is God's temple, so keep it in good condition.

Always live by the Golden Rule. Help others and be charitable. Do no harm. Be patient. Respect others and don't judge them, unless their choices will harm the innocent. Be honest and merciful toward others. Acquire wisdom and knowledge to help you accomplish your goals. Use effort, persistence and discipline to help achieve your goals.

Step away from the religious radicals and hotheads, on all sides, and the world's religions are not so different, are they? This book can be opened to any page, and it will show that the different conceptions of God around the world are very similar. It is recommended for everyone, religious or non-religious.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Section 51 (Project Solstice)

Section 51 (Project Solstice), V.G. Harrison, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013

First of a series, this science fiction/paranormal novel is about Ava Frost, part of a set of triplets. She has always had a strong empathic connection with her brother, Ian, until the day that he "disappears." She heads for the small town of Willow Falls to get some answers.

It all has to do with a bit of Native American folklore about people called skinwalkers, who can turn into animals, and back again. Ava knows, almost on arrival, that something is really wrong. She meets Ian at a local restaurant, but she knows that this is not her brother. The usual empathic connection is gone. She soon learns that Ian was killed two months previously, and his death was covered up.

Ava suddenly finds herself in the middle of a super-secret government program called Section 51 (yes, it's an offshoot of Area 51). It involves using genetic engineering to intentionally turn people into skinwalkers. She also runs into Colonel Briggs, the megalomaniac who runs the program. His intention is to create an army of such soldiers. Ian was working on a sort of skinwalker GPS system, and it's up to Ava to re-create his steps and bring it online. Briggs wants it very much, and there isn't anything he won't do to get total control over the skinwalkers.

This story is surprisingly good. It's very easy to read, it moves very quickly, and it will certainly keep the reader, whether science fiction or paranormal fan, very interested.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Diet Dropout's Guide to Natural Weight Loss

The Diet Dropout's Guide to Natural Weight Loss, Stan Spencer, Fine Life Books, 2013

After trying every diet known to man, you keep getting frustrated when the weight does not stay off for very long. Perhaps it is time to change your attitudes toward food. That is what this book is all about.

Are you an emotional eater? Do you turn to food when life gets emotionally overwhelming? Do not worry about what might happen in the future; focus on now. Relax your mind by focusing on the present, but limit that focus to a single perception or physical sensation. You can also try meditation, or repetitive activity, like lawn mowing or vacuuming the floor, to trigger the relaxation response. Remove thoughts like "I'm so stupid" or "Life isn't fair" from your brain right now. Your way of thinking will become more rational and you will be less of a slave to your emotions. Accept those things that you cannot change.

It's easier to avoid temptations than to resist them. get junk food out of your house, or, at least, hide it. Start buying healthy food at the supermarket. Decide, in advance, what you will do when you pass by the candy dish on the co-worker's desk. When the craving comes, think about something else. A craving is a psychological need, rather than a physical need. Look up "calories burned calculator" online, and see just how much exercise is needed to burn the calories in a bottle of soda. Tell yourself that you are not interested. If all else fails, take a brisk walk. When confronted with, for instance, a plate of chocolate chip cookies, mentally make them boring so as to remove the emotional need for them. Add a couple of hairs to the plate, or add a bit of mold to a couple of the cookies. You don't need to go so far as to, mentally, turn them into a plate of toxic waste; keep it simple.

It is possible to eat less without going hungry. Add fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts to your diet. Don;t skip a meal; it will leave you tempted to snack on junk food. Get enough sleep, and watch less TV. Physical activity will help to boost your metabolism, and help you lose weight. The book also debunks a number of weight loss myths.

This book is short, and it is excellent. This is weight loss without pills, special meals or other gimmicks. It is highly recommended for anyone who has ever tried to lose weight.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk, HarperCollins, 2013

It is getting increasingly hard for companies, big and small, to tell their story in this noisy, chaotic, social media world. This book attempts to make that task a little easier.

Most companies are on social media because it is "expected," or because their competitors are already here. But they have little, or no, idea as to how to do it the right way. Perhaps the biggest rule is to Create Interesting Content. Give people a reason to visit you on Facebook or Twitter more than once. Post something funny, or something that makes the reader think. Later, you can ask for their money ("Buy Our Stuff"). It should be obvious that the link included with the request for your customer's money should go right to your website's ordering page, not the main page. Make it as easy as possible for people to buy your stuff.

What works on Facebook will not work on Twitter or Instagram, nor should it. You need to get creative and tailor your posts to each site. The author spends much of the book looking at actual marketing campaigns, from big and small companies, on various social media sites. He explains exactly how Company A got it right, Company B got it half-right, and Company C really shouldn't have bothered.

The days of a company choosing a motto or a face of the company, and using it everywhere for several months, are also gone. Don't be afraid to change your marketing often, even every day. If your Twitter or Pinterest approach is not working (there are ways to gather, and analyze, such information), dump it, now. It is not going to suddenly get better.

The author makes it easy in showing, instead of telling, how to do social media marketing. Even those companies who have yet to "get it," will be able to understand. This book is recommended for companies of all sizes; if your company is not already active on social media, why not?

Eat Move Sleep

Eat Move Sleep, Tom Rath, Mission Day, 2012

In his 20's, the author was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. It shuts off his body's tumor-fighting capabilities, and makes it very easy for him to get cancer. While adjusting to a life of annual CT scans and MRI's and operations to remove small tumors, he became very interested in health and wellness. Here are some of the things he learned.

The closest thing the human body has to a vaccine for the common cold is a good night's sleep. Permanently forget fad diets. Focus on eating the right foods. Look at the nutrition label of your favorite food or snack. If the sugar content is greater than 10 grams per serving, find an alternative. Carry a healthy standby snack wherever you go. Do not use your alarm's snooze button for an entire week. Then, see if you can stretch that week to permanently. Select restaurants based on how easy it is to order something healthy. If you are having trouble sleeping. try exercising for a few days before reaching for medication.

Plan your days to eat more early in the day, less later in the day and nothing after supper. Identify something that regularly stresses you out. Work on a plan to keep it from happening. Limit yourself to no more than two hours of seated television daily. To get a really natural tan, eat more tomatoes and carrots. To improve your hair and skin, add some salmon and flax to your diet. Use vigorous exercise to clear your mind and body. Consider a new micro-activity, like parking far away from the door or taking the stairs. Replace all sugary drinks with water, coffee or other unsweetened drinks. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Last, but not least, be active every day; take a few more steps tomorrow than you did today.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? As with other books of this type, no one is expected to do everything in this book starting on the first day. Pick a few actions, and integrate them into your daily life, then pick a few more. This book is easy to read and follow, and is recommended for people from all parts of society.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Milligan and Murphy

Milligan and Murphy, Jim Murdoch, Fandango Virtual, 2011

This is the story of a pair of half-brothers in contemporary Ireland. Milligan and Murphy were born to the same mother. Their first names were both John, so they became known by their surnames; hence, Milligan and Murphy.

Their mother, with whom they both live, will never be nominated for Mother of the Year. Her parents and grandparents are all deceased, so no one taught her how to be a mother. The duo's teenage carnal needs were taken care of by the town whore, who asked for payment in Guinness Stout. They live in a place called Lissoy, which is not on any map. Consisting of little more than a bunch of cottages clustered around one road, Lissoy is the sort of place that, on a good day, might just reach the level of being a village.

One day, in their 40's, Ma sends Milligan and Murphy to a neighbor's farm, a couple of miles away, for a day of work. Along the way, they reach a literal crossroads. There is no grand declaration, but the pair decide that they would like to see the sea (which neither of them have ever seen). Maybe they can get a ride on a boat to England or France. Therefore, they take the road away from the neighbor's farm. Potential obstacles like their total lack of money, their lack of any sort of camping equipment and having no idea how to reach the coast are not considered.

After they are away for a few weeks, Ma hires a local detective to find them. It's less out of any parental concern for their safety, and more because the neighbors will expect them to make some sort of attempt to find her children. The detective is successful. Again, there is no grand declaration, but the pair tell the detective that they are not going home, and are continuing with their quest. Are they successful in gaining ship's passage away from Ireland?

As you might have guessed, not a lot happens in this book. What it does have is a unique tone of narration, and unique tone of conversation between the two brothers. The reader will either enjoy this tale, or think that it is a boring waste of time. I enjoyed it (maybe my Irish ancestry has something to do with it).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Doc Savage: Death in Silver

Doc Savage: Death in Silver, Kenneth Robeson, Golden Press, 1975

Doc Savage is a very unique individual. With his bronze skin, off-the-scale intellect, and strength to match, he has dedicated his life to rooting out all forms of evil. His adventures were also an important part of 1930s pulp fiction, which is where this novel was first published.

New York City has seen its share of crime waves, but this is different. This time, the perpetrators are a group of people who wear identical head to toe silver suits, including silver masks that cover their entire heads. They are able to rob an armored car, or kill someone who knows too much, and make a clean getaway. The police have no idea who, or where, they are. The city is in an uproar.

Usually, Doc has five assistants, each of them an expert on their own, to help him in his never-ending battle against evil. This time, three of them are overseas, and the others, Ham and Monk, spend part of the book being kidnapped. Doc survives several assassination attempts; the gang's leader knows never to underestimate Doc Savage. The story shifts to the bottom of the East River in Manhattan, where a battle takes place between the occupants of a couple of submarines.

A certain shipping company has a record of getting close to a competitor, interested in a merger. Suddenly, the other owner suffers an "untimely demise," or the other company suffers a severe financial setback, allowing it to be taken over. As this novel opens, another shipping company owner, whose shipyard was used for a secret purpose, gets cold feet, and tells "Mr. Big" that he is going to the police. Moments later, his office, with him in it, is destroyed by a massive explosion.

This one is pretty good. I can easily see this novel serialized over three or four months in a pulp magazine, right next to a science fiction, detective, or sports pulp magazine. For those who appreciate such literature, this has plenty of action, and is worth checking out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars

John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars, Roland Hughes, Logikal Solutions, 2012

This is a dystopian novel about life after a pair of worldwide catastrophes, one of which was man-made.

Near-future Earth now has 12 continents. America is gone. The vast majority of Earth's population has perished, along with a similar percentage of human knowledge. If a machine stops working, for any reason, it is not used any longer. That is because no one alive knows how to fix the machines, along with having no facilities to make new parts to fix those machines. As far as those still alive are concerned, recorded history began about 60 years previously.

Susan Krowley, a reporter for The Times (printed twice a month, with a circulation of 5,500), interviews Smith to ask about the Microsoft Wars. Smith feels that she does not have the right frame of reference; it's like Susan was asking to read the last chapter of a mystery novel without reading the rest of the novel. Smith starts by spending a lot of time talking about Atlantis.

It was a very advanced society, the superpower of its day. The elite lived in complete luxury, while lower-class workers kept everything working. As the centuries went on, it became necessary to leave Atlantis before it was destroyed (nuclear explosion?). They took to the water in city-sized submarines (when Smith mentions computers, submarines or the Internet, Susan has no idea what he is talking about). They had mastered the science of human cloning, so a person could live for thousands of years. Their overall influence on very early humanity was huge.

More recently, as the world fell apart, Smith's family built a shelter out of a bank vault. His parents died before they could join him in the shelter, so Smith and his grandfather used it. Grandpa did not survive (there was no possibility of going outside to bury him), so Smith spent his puberty years alone in the shelter with a dead body. His shelter contains racks and racks of DVDs, filled with human knowledge. When his computer stops working, all those DVDs will become worthless, as there will be no way to read them. At the end of the book, Smith finally tells Susan all about the Microsoft Wars (no, they did not try to take over the world).

This may be rather dry reading, because it is all in interview format, but don't let that be an obstacle. This book is very interesting and well-done, it's plausible, it's a bit spooky, and it is highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The One-Percenters

The One-Percenters, John Podgursky, Damnation Books LLC, 2009

This is about a man who finds his purpose in life, but not through any of the usual ways.

Edward is your average married man. He is now on the receiving end of the wrong kind of notoriety, after his wife was a victim of a serial killer. After several months of dealing with people's attempts at sympathy, Edward abruptly moves several states away. His plan is to make a fresh start.

Already in a downward emotional spiral, Edward hooks up with Cristen. They exchange stories of their difficult childhoods; as time goes on, they find themselves in a relationship. On a camping trip, Cristen drowns (with Edward's help). He takes off, knowing that it will not be long before the police get involved. While on the run, Edward realizes something about himself.

Evolution is a funny thing. The vast majority of people on Earth will make no noticeable contribution to society. They will simply live and die, probably breeding more useless people. Edward thinks of himself as part of the One Percent (not the financial One Percent). They have the right, and the duty, to decide who lives and who dies, with the intention of bettering humanity.

Over the next couple of years, Edward is constantly on the run, carrying out his "duty." He murders several people, thereby, supposedly, improving the gene pool. One night, in a seedy bar, Edward learns that there are others like him. Throughout all of this, Edward knows that, sooner or later, he will get caught by the police.

This is a pretty dark novel, almost a psychological horror novel. It will give the reader a mental workout, with plenty to think about concerning the present state of mankind. It's also a short novel, told in flashback, that is very much worth the reader's time.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Unions For Beginners

Unions for Beginners, David Cogswell, For Beginners LLC, 2012

The forty-hour work week, pensions and safe working conditions became part of the American employment landscape because employers felt that it was the proper thing to do, right? No, those things came into existence because of strikes and agitation by labor unions.

Why are unions supposedly at the root of America's financial problems, despite the huge drop in numbers of unionized workers over the past half century? The American corporate class (the 1 percent) wants nothing to stand in the way of their pursuit of profit. Employee wages are seen as an expense, which must be reduced as much as possible, in order to push up the stock price. A person might think that societies like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia are the world leaders (for lack of a better term) in using propaganda on their own citizens. By far, the world leader is the United States. People are taught to equate free market capitalism with everything that is good in America. Any opposition to corporate power, like unions, is supposed to equal tyranny, oppression and communism.

Unions came into existence because of a fundamental bit of human nature. If people get together in a group, they can accomplish things that a single person can not accomplish. People have gone on strike for better working conditions since the early days of America. This book looks at some of the famous events in union history. In 1835, children in Patterson, New Jersey's silk mills went on strike for an 11-hour day and a six-day work week. There's Chicago Haymarket Incident (or Riot, or Massacre) in 1886. There's the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, and the Homestead Strike of 1892. In the 20th century, there is 1913's Ludlow Massacre. More recently, the book explores the Conservative Resurgence of the 1980s, and the attacks against unions by people from Ronald Reagan to Scott Walker. Union leaders are only human, so, throughout American history, they can be just as evil and corrupt as the rest of society.

This is a partisan book; it is probably not possible to write a totally non-partisan book about unions. This book is still recommended for everyone. It's recommended for those interested in the less well known parts of American history, it's recommended for union members who are unfamiliar with their history, and it's recommended for part of the explanation as to how America got into its present financial mess.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Skinny On Networking

The Skinny On Networking: Maximizing the Power of Numbers, Jim Randel, Rand Media Co., 2010

This is another in a series of simple, but not simplistic, books that teach a "large" subject very painlessly. This one is all about networking.

Billy is a high school history teacher. He would like to be a college music teacher, but such vacancies are few and far between. Randel, the narrator, tells Billy to start by asking his network, like friends and family, if they can help. Maybe someone knows someone who knows someone. He shouldn't assume that they already know about his desire to be a college music teacher; he has to tell them, specifically. If he sends an email, he should be very careful about who gets it. Don't just send it to everyone on your e-mail list.

If that doesn't fulfill the request, expand your horizons. For instance, dust off your college yearbook, and start looking up old classmates. Cold calling is never fun, but it is an essential part of networking. The book talks about connectors, those who seem to know people in many different "groups." If you come in contact with such a person, becoming acquaintances or friends with them is a very good idea. Think of social capital as a form of karma; you can never have too much of it. Try very hard to do things for other people (increasing your social capital supply) before you ask for things from other people (reducing your social capital supply).

Billy's wife, Beth, is a lawyer who would like to be partner. She knows that it involves bringing in more clients, but she is uncomfortable asking total strangers for their business. Randel suggests that she join business and professional groups that will put her in the company of people who may need her services in the future. Networking is not supposed to be quick or easy, so don't get discouraged if "it" doesn't happen very quickly.

This is another excellent book that is made for busy people. The idea is to distill the major points from many books on a subject, like networking, into an easy to read format that still has a lot to say. Along with the rest of the series, this is very highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Xander Caine and the Alien Prophecy

Xander Caine and the Alien Prophecy, Alexander Scruggs, CreateSpace, 2012

This young adult novel is about a person's physical and emotional journey.

Xander has lived a life of wealth and privilege. It has taken him a long time to realize that people are living in the slums outside the city walls, including his friends, Kai and Priya. Xander's home planet has recently finished a century-long war between the two civilizations that inhabit it, forcing them to work together.

Xander asks his father why he never talks about his family, and receives a really sickening answer. Despite the "peace" between the two civilizations, there are those who really don't like what Xander's father represents (he is more than just a world-famous scientist). They plan to do something about it, forcing the families (Kai, Priya and their mother are now included) to flee, several times. Along the way, Xander learns that his destiny is to get very involved in what is to come, and not just be a spectator.

This is a solid, well done piece of writing, in which the author has left room for a sequel. Teens will enjoy it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Single Guy: How to Live Smarter, Date Better and Be Awesomely Happy

Single Guy: How to Live Smarter, Date Better and Be Awesomely Happy, Joe Keller, Scruffy Olive LLC, 2013

You suddenly find yourself single, either by choice or by divorce. Now what do you do?

If your soon-to-be-ex agrees, hire a mediator or write the divorce agreement yourselves. It will save both of you a lot of money over hiring divorce attorneys, and it will cut down on the arguing (very important if there are children involved). If you are the one who is moving out, look for a new place now (don't put it off). Make sure your children have a space of their own when they visit your new residence.

Your new home will probably need a good cleaning; even if it looks clean, a thorough cleaning is still a good idea. The author looks at various cleaning products that have worked for him. After all that cleaning, you are going to be hungry. In the kitchen, the author suggests sticking with the basics for now, like pots, pans and measuring cups. The fancy, high end items can come later.

At some point, you will want to invite women to your home. No to pictures of your ex, or of scantily clad women. Yes to plants, candles or pictures by your children. Other good ways to impress a woman are by showing her that you know how to cook (easy recipes are included), and that you know your way around the world of wine; the author helps with the basics.

How else can a single guy meet women? Volunteer your time, learn how to dance, join a fitness class or shop in a women's clothing or personal care store. Make sure you look presentable, approach her with confidence, and say something interesting (more than "Hey, you wanna go to a nightclub?"). When creating a dating website profile, it's OK to get a bit creative with your photo. Don't make it look like a mug shot, but don't make it part of an obviously cropped group photo. Give her a reason to open your message before all of the others she receives.

This book is excellent. It puts things very simply, for guys who have never been on their own, or whose wife has done all the cooking and cleaning. This gets two strong thumbs up.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Extreme College 101

Extreme College 101: How to Aggressively Fast-Track Your College Degree by Applying Your Already-Acquired Life Knowledge, Eli Caplin, CreateSpace, 2013

You have been working for the past several years. You feel that now is the time to get, or finish getting, your college degree. Is there any way to get college credit for what you have already learned, thereby reducing your time in the classroom, and the overall financial cost?

There are a number of things that can be done. Did you take any professional development courses as part of your job? They may be eligible for college credit. It's possible to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam without taking the course. Talk to your local high school to find out when the exams are offered. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests cover material taught in a two-year program. Other organizations offer similar programs.

If you are already in school, visit the Admissions Office, or the office that deals with lifelong learners, and ask what sort of programs they offer. If you are looking for a school to attend, a visit to their lifelong learners office might be more advantageous than taking the usual college tour. Always be aware of "diploma mills" and unaccredited online schools.

Consider taking online courses from well-known, legitimate schools. If you have the time, take a summer course or a course over winter break. The tuition, and the time required, will be less than the usual semester-long course. Need to brush up on a course before the exam? Do an internet search for "open courseware." It's a program where top schools all over the world put some, most, or all of their courses online, for Free. The only things the student does not get are access to the teacher, and credit for the course (they are not mentioned in the book, but other places to visit for free online courses are Coursera and EdX).

Some schools may ask you to write an essay explaining why you deserve credit for a specific course. Get a copy of the syllabus, which will include the learning objectives, and incorporate them in your answer.

For anyone who has been away from school for a few years, this book is a keeper. It can be read in an hour or so, and is full of information for students of nearly any age.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Broken Gift

The Broken Gift, Daniel Friedmann, Inspired Books, 2013

It may seem impossible to reconcile the scientific and religious conceptions of Man's creation. Did Man, in his present form, come into existence as part of a week-long process several thousand years ago? On the other hand, did it happen as part of a much longer process over hundreds of millions of years?

It starts with the definition of the word "day." On the planet Venus, a day equals 243 Earth days, whereas, on the International Space Station, a day lasts for about 90 minutes. There are three different measurements of time to consider. God communicates with us using Creation Time, The universe operates on Divine Time. Human time is what we measure with our Earthly clocks.

The author goes into a lot of detail in the book, but one Creation Day equals 7,000 Divine Years. According to psalms as interpreted in the Talmud, one Divine Day equals 1,000 Human Years. Therefore, one Divine Year equals 365,000 Human Years. To turn one Creation Day into Human Years, multiply 7,000 times 1,000 times 365.25 (the number of days in one Human year), and you get 2.56 billion years. Multiply that by the six "days" of Creation in Genesis, and you get approximately 15 billion years.

Where was the Garden of Eden? According to ancient Jewish commentaries called the Midrashim, clues place it in Ethiopia, the Arabian Peninsula, India and/or Egypt. How is that possible? The land masses are constantly moving via plate tectonics. Several hundred million years ago, the continents were much closer together, so it is very possible for the Garden of Eden to be in, seemingly, four different places.

There is no evidence for a worldwide Flood. The geological evidence does not support it. There is not enough water on Earth and in the atmosphere to cover all the land. Perhaps it was a local Flood, affecting only the Biblical area.

This is certainly an eye-opener of a book. For anyone who might be concerned, how can attempting to answer some of the major questions of the Bible be considered anti-Christian? This will give the reader quite a mental workout, and it is very much recommended.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Solution Revolution

The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government and Social Enterprises are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems, William D. Eggers and Paul Macmillan, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013

Government, by itself, can no longer fix all of society's problems. Perhaps it is time for a partnership between government, business and new organizations that that are shrinking the gap between what citizens need and what government can provide.

Does your town have a rather dismal home recycling rate? Instead of spending tax money on a recycling PR campaign, visit a site called Recyclebank. They have helped towns to double or triple their recycling rate in just a few months. Is downtown clogged with traffic? Instead of imposing some sort of downtown driving fee, consider a car-sharing service like ZipCar.

It is now possible to mobilize huge amounts of resources around societal problems, while the costs plummet. In this new solution economy, the exchange and creation of value (currencies) are happening in new ways. The new currency could be data, credits, reputation or social outcomes (like reduced sickness). There are also new ways to trade these new currencies. They range from prizes and challenges, to crowdfunding platforms, to two-sided markets (with no middleman), to arrangements that pay for success. Can the same system work for international issues, like human trafficking or providing inexpensive housing for India's poor?

How can government or business help to bring about a solution economy? Government can use their purchasing power to create demand, be open to other avenues to reach a desired outcome, open up public data, avoid over-regulating the solution economy and recognize social enterprises as a new kind of business. Business can help by looking at their operating procedures against social criteria, make a bold commitment, change their sourcing practices, and find a way to leverage that open data.

This is a really interesting book. Perhaps it will inspire others to find social needs that are not yet being met, and do something about it. The only bad part of this book is the lack of a list in the back of the websites mentioned in the book (there are quite a number of them). Aside from that, this book is very much worth reading, for businesses and individuals.

Thinking in New Boxes

Thinking In New Boxes: Five Essential Steps to Spark the Next Big Idea, Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny, Random House, 2013

Your company makes buggy whips. It has always made buggy whips. Sales have been flat for the past several quarters. As CEO, what, if anything, are you going to do about it?

First of all, doubt everything about your company (but not to the point of paralysis). Put everything about your company, and your view of the market, under the microscope. Don't assume that anything about your company will stay the same in the future. Next, you need to look around and consider your options. It's
normal to keep your minds in the box labeled "buggy whips" (thinking that the only allowable options are those that involve buggy whips). Get that thought out of your head right now.

Set up an off-site meeting of at least half a day with your senior management, or your entire company, if it is small enough, to brainstorm ideas for the future of your company. As a bit of mental exercise, describe your company's product without using the five most obvious words. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality. Do not denigrate any idea, no matter how strange it sounds. With a little tweaking, what sounds like a terrible idea could become your company's economic lifesaver.

A later session, preferably with a different group of people, is dedicated to converging those many ideas into something more manageable. Now you can cross out the ideas that are just not feasible for your company, and combine similar ideas. Get down to a small number (three or four) new ideas or concepts or potential new products that your company can put into practice; then, do it. No idea will work forever, so constantly re-evaluate your new ideas, and don't be afraid to replace an old idea with a new one.

 This may seem like a rather dry and boring concept, but the authors do a very good job at making it not so dry and boring. It's interesting, and it has a lot to say to companies of any size.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vic: Time Doesn't Matter

Vic: Time Doesn't Matter, Jerry Gill and Edgar Rice Burroughs, CreateSpace, 2013

This is the story of a love that really does span the ages.

The first two parts of this book are actually abridged versions of a pair of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels (that is why he is listed as a co-author). They tell the story of Victoria Custer, your average resident of the early 20th century. She likes candy, her favorite color is pink, and she is very interested in hats and barrettes. She is also deathly afraid of earthquakes, and she is very troubled by dreams and visions of a handsome young man whose name, she learns, is Nu.

A millenia ago, Nu was part of a tribe living in an earthquake-prone part of Africa. It was a time when death could come anywhere and anytime, whether from a snake bite, or being devoured by a large, carnivorous beast. Nu is very interested in taking Nat-ul as his mate. Her "price" is the head of Oo, a very large lion who has caused their group many problems in the past. While off on his solo hunt, an earthquake knocks out Nu, and seals him in a cave, for 100,000 years. Another earthquake opens his cave, and he awakens in the 1920's. For Nu, it's a very boring place, except for meeting Victoria, who is there on a vacation. She could be Nat-ul's identical twin sister. The attraction is immediate, and mutual.

The third part (the part written by Gill) takes Victoria from the family farm in Nebraska to the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. By now, she has embraced her inner cave woman (Nat-ul is now a part of her), and she is planning to visit the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Her brother, Barney, goes with her, knowing that Vic is quite prepared to go by herself. While there, Vic has many adventures, including helping to release several young children from being sold into slavery, killing a jaguar single-handedly, and falling into an underground river, which leads to her almost being devoured by a hideous flying beast. Of course, Vic has a bigger reason for her trip than simply becoming an adventure addict.

I really enjoyed this book. Gill does a very credible continuation of the story of Victoria/Nat-ul. Nearly anything written by ERB will have good writing, and lots of action; so does the third part. This is very much worth the reader's time.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Give and Take

Give and Take, Adam M. Grant, Viking Press, 2013

American business is supposed to be a tough, ultra-competitive arena where only the strong survive, and nice guys get trampled, right? According to this book, that is not totally true.

This book looks at three different kinds of people. Takers claim as much value for themselves as possible. If, for instance, they are the CEO, they are the sort of person who has a full page picture of themselves in the company's annual report, where most other CEO's will have a much smaller picture in their annual report. Takers are very deferential to superiors, and very mean and inconsiderate to subordinates. They use words like I, me and mine, as if they single-handedly caused their company to have a profitable year.

Matchers aim to trade value evenly, as if they want to keep their spiritual inbox and outbox equal. Givers contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

The giving could involve something like arranging a business introduction, or mentoring a younger employee. There is a fine line between being a giver and a doormat; a giver must also make sure that their business duties are not being ignored. In the short term, takers may do better than givers, but, in the long term, a giver's networking, collaboration and leadership skills will come to the forefront. A giver uses words like we, us and ours.

How can a person increase their giving capacity? Take a test to see just how much of a giver you really are. Start a reciprocity ring at work. A group of employees meet weekly to make requests of each other. The intention is that everyone do what they can to fulfill those requests. It may seem a bit silly, but someone in your circle may know someone who knows someone who can fulfill your request. Publicly recognize givers at work. If you would rather give on your own, start a Personal Generosity Experiment.

This is a very thought-provoking book, which shows that nice people can finish first. The average CEO, or division head, could do a lot worse than read this book, and start to implement its recommendations.

Modern Disciples (Volume 2)

Modern Disciples (Volume 2), Ian Anderson, Outskirts Press, 2013

This is part 2 of a series about a group of average humans who are actually offspring of the gods of antiquity. It is not just Greek gods, but also Norse, Japanese and Aztec gods, who are alive and well, and mating with present-day humans.

In this book, the group of six has been given three different tasks, forcing them to split up. Jane and Ryan head into the Nevada desert, looking for a drug factory that is creating a very powerful and very addictive drug. It happens to look and taste exactly like regular tap water.

After several days of hiking, they find the drug factory (by being taken prisoner). Among the other prisoners are several women who are used in all sorts of unspeakable ways, and members of a US Army unit who were ambushed while on a training exercise. They are guarded by a number of dark elves, and members of the Army unit who were induced to go over to the "dark side." It is run by Andre Wittenburg, the local crime boss, who knows exactly what Jane and Ryan really are.

To call conditions "brutal" is a huge understatement. Jane and Ryan free the other prisoners, and destroy the camp. They have to fight a mythical creature or two along the way. After a few days to recover, the six are back together and off to their next challenge. The tears of Freya (Norse goddess and Jane's mother) were encased in amber a millennia ago. It is very important that they not fall into the wrong hands. The group heads to a very restricted part of the Atlantic Ocean, just off the Florida Keys. It's the sort of place that no sane ship's captain would ever visit. There they meet another couple of mythical creatures (who really are not so mythical).

Most times, literary sequels are not as good as the previous book. That is not true in this case. If anything, this book is better than Volume 1, because the reader gets more of the back story. This is very much worth reading.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ctrl Alt Delete

Ctrl Alt Delete, Mitch Joel, Business Plus, 2013

Digital technology and the Internet have changed American business from top to bottom (what else is new?). What can you, or your company, do to survive in this new landscape? This book gives some answers.

If your company doesn't already have a social media presence, forget about hiring some college kids to create one, while the rest of the company continues with its 20th century mentality. The entire company has to embrace social media, starting with the CEO. Most companies assume that they know who their customers are. Do some research, and find out for sure.

There are ways to measure, for instance, who visits your website, what pages they click on, and how long they stay. If your company is not already up to its eyeballs in analyzing such data, you are missing out on a lot of potentially useful information.

When you are talking to your customers, ask them how they stay connected. It's not a case of web or mobile or tablets being most important, but whatever screen the customer is using now. How can you make your customer's lives easier?

This book also looks at how individuals can thrive in this new landscape. It is very rare for a person to, for instance, grow up wanting to get into marketing, and then spend their entire career in marketing. It's even more unlikely for it to happen at one company. You career path is going to resemble a squiggly line. Embrace the squiggle.

As much as possible, get rid of cubicles and internal walls at your company. Encourage collaboration between different parts of your company. Such collaboration may create the new must have "killer app." The office itself is becoming less of a requirement, as it is now possible for a person's "office" to be anywhere they can use their laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Many books have been written about the new digital world. This one belongs high on the list. It is easy to read, and is full of information for employers and employees.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kingdom Come: The Mayan Answer

Kingdom Come: The Mayan Answer, Margaret Evans, Moonlight Mystery Press, 2012

Last of a trilogy, this book is about a new age on Earth with the coming of the Mayan Sixth World. This time, something is really going to happen.

Several years previously, Amy Magee, archaeologist and expert on Mayan hieroglyphics, discovered some real Mayan pyramids that were buried. . . in central California. It seems that the Spanish wiped out only some of the Mayan race several hundred years ago; they did not wipe out the entire race.

Today, Mayan workmen are busy unearthing the new Mayan city of Ixabal, getting ready for the coronation of the new King. Amy has a major part in the ceremony, as the Bringer of the Sixth World. Everything has been kept very quiet, so that the public does not know what is happening. The exception is a nosy newspaper reporter, who has been asking questions.

A major complication happens when Will, a major figure in what is to come, gets conked on the head during a cavern cave-in, and loses a large chunk of his recent memory. That includes the memory of just what he is supposed to say and do in a couple of weeks. Candis, Will's sister, knows and accepts her part in the coming ceremony (think "human sacrifice"). Leo, her boyfriend, most assuredly does not agree. He comes up with a bold plan for the both of them to flee to someplace where they will never be found. Rumors of a huge treasure attract the attention of several international bad guys. Meantime, Amy races to interpret an ancient Mayan book which may have a very different interpretation of the start of the Sixth World.

As with most trilogies, reading the first two books first is a good idea. It's also a good idea because this book, and the whole trilogy, is that good. It's interesting and plausible and it will certainly keep the reader interested.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Star Power Astrology

Star Power Astrology: Your Red Carpet Guide to Living a Totally Fabulous Life, Suzan Hayden, NorLights Press, 2013

This book shows how to look at your life through astrology. It also explores how famous people recognized their abilities and how those abilities were used.

The first thing a person must do is to have their natal chart created. It's much more specific than the average newspaper horoscope, in that it looks at the position of the planets at the exact date, time and place of your birth. It will help identify major obstacles in your life. The position of Saturn at the time of birth means a lot. The other planets of the solar system correspond to areas of your personality (any angles or connections between them can be very good, or very bad).

The author spends much of the book with astrological biographies of famous people, ranging from Elizabeth I to Albert Einstein to Lady Gaga. Read about their childhood challenges, and perhaps they will sound very familiar. After each negative part of their personality, the author lists ways that the reader can overcome such obstacles.

Here are some examples. If your Sun opposes Neptune, maybe one or both of your parents demeaned you when you were younger (like Angelina Jolie). Find someone you can trust who can help you decide if your goals make sense. If your Mercury is square with Uranus (like Lady Gaga), you have a know-it-all attitude with a short attention span. Ask yourself why are you rebelling; is it just to challenge authority? If your Sun opposes Jupiter, you tend to promise more than you can deliver (like Nostradamus). You need to learn your limitations and develop some self-control. If your Mercury opposes Pluto, you tend to obsess about everything (like Pablo Picasso). Think before you speak, especially when you feel emotional.

This is a very interesting book, and will help people, both astrology believers and skeptics, make their way through life. I admit to being an astrology skeptic, but I am always ready to change my mind. This is very much worth reading.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Modern Disciples (Volume 1)

Modern Disciples (Volume 1), Ian Anderson, Outskirts Press, 2011

In a world where the gods of antiquity take human form and have been mating with present-day humans, one man begins to learn his destiny.

Ryan Hunter has been on his own for most of his life. One night, while accompanying a bounty hunter, Ryan sees some very strange things, and feels his godly "abilities" awakened within him. He soon finds himself, along with five other Disciples, in a hotel conference room in Orlando, Florida. Each are sitting next to their godly parents. It is not just Greek gods who are alive and well, but gods from many other cultures, including Norse, Aztec and Japanese.

The six are given a mission. They must travel into the Everglades, and kill a very special alligator. After several days trudging through the swamps, they find the alligator. Think of a giant, mutant alligator on steroids (that can climb trees). Later, the group finds a small town where they think can rest and recuperate for a few days. Strange things are going on in the town. All the women are dressed in very revealing outfits, and they all have blank looks on their faces. There are separate gatherings for men and women every night. Attendance, even by visitors, is expected. The group has to fight their way out of town.

Back at the same hotel conference room, the group learns of a fancy charity ball happening in the hotel. The organization's official address is an abandoned warehouse, and the people listed as the Board of Directors are all dead (no, they're not zombies). The group infiltrates the ball, and learns that, among other beings, vampires are involved. Do all members of the group survive their tasks? Do any of the group, three men and three women, hookup with each other? Do they stay together, and become the newest group of superheroes?

This book is better than excellent. The author does it the right way from start to finish. It has action, it has weirdness, and it has lots of good writing. I am very interested in reading future books in this series.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Murder By Proxy

Murder By Proxy, Robert L. Hecker, Hard Shell Word Factory, 2006

It's up to Benjamin Roan to save the President of the United States.

Roan is a private investigator from California who has done work for the government in the past. President Burgess is dying of leukemia (the public diagnosis is "pneumonia"). With no close relatives for a bone marrow transplant, things look bleak. From his hospital bed, Burgess tells Roan of an illegitimate daughter he had while in college. Roan's mission is to find her, and convince her to give up a blood sample. Get it back to Washington, and if it's a match, get her to Washington for a bone marrow transplant.

Her name is Lisa, and she's a photographer on assignment in Havana. She is gorgeous, and very opinionated. She doesn't know who her father is. Roan convinces her to give up a blood sample, then they are arrested by a Cuban Colonel named El Tigre. After several narrow escapes, they find themselves back in Washington. Roan and Lisa have both come to the conclusion that someone very high in the US Government wants the President to die. They just have to wait for the leukemia to kill him, so it won't actually be murder.

Even in Washington, in the custody of the US Government, several more attempts are made to kill Lisa, or otherwise prevent her from giving up her bone marrow. By this time, she knows that she is the daughter of the President. Roan and Lisa thought they had gotten rid of El Tigre back in Havana, but he is in Washington, wanting revenge. Ben is in the operating room with Lisa, making sure that nothing goes wrong. Does Lisa successfully give up her bone marrow? Do Lisa and president Burgess have one of those tearful reconciliations? Does Ben fall in love with Lisa?

This is an excellent piece of writing. It's well done from start to finish, it has plenty of political intrigue, and it's the story of a father and daughter who have never met. It is very much worth reading.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Private School Blogger - I Need My Iphone!

Private School Blogger - I Need My IPhone!, Sam Lyons, Gamertag Publishing, 2013

Told in a series of blog postings, this is the story of your average middle-school student at his new (private) school.

Matthew is more interested in computer games than in school. He thinks very little of the school uniform that he has to wear on the first day of school (including a clip-on tie). His mother drops him off in an average, older mini-van, while the other kids get out of  limos and Merecedes-Benzes.

He almost gets out of history class without homework, until another student brings up the subject during class. Mrs. Fuddles, the Vice-Principal, wants to lose weight, so she decides that all the students must also eat healthier food. The students come up with some creative ways to express their dislike of "bunny food." Matthew learns that a couple of his classmates, and fellow computer gamers, live nearby, so he finds that walking home from school is not so bad.

Matthew's mother decides that he needs a haircut, so to save money, she takes him to a local barber college. Matthew is not impressed with the results. After school is the obligatory visit to GameStop to check out new games. He bemoans the boring clothes he got for Christmas, while his new friends got electronics or cool games.

Sounds like the life of the average middle school student, doesn't it? I am sure that many young people can identify with Matthew. It's short, and it's worth reading.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Product is You! Position Yourself for Success as an Advisor

The Product is You! Position Yourself for Success as an Advisor, Mark Magnacca, 1st Books, 2003

There are thousands and thousands of "financial advisors" in America. Why should a person, or company, entrust their money to you over someone else?

First, you should remove any mental reservations, or "glass walls", that are holding you back. Some examples are the feeling that you aren't experienced enough, or that your degree wasn't from a "top" school. Next, you need to write a personal biography. It will tell potential clients about you, and begin to explain why you will do a better job managing their money than anyone else.

Potential clients can appear anywhere, so you need to have an "elevator speech" ready to go at any time. It's a 30-second speech that explains what business you are in, and what value you bring to the customer. (It's not as easy to answer as it sounds.) You need to get more creative than to simply say, "I sell life insurance", and hand them your business card. What distinguishes you from every other life insurance agent who is out there?

When it comes to marketing, you need to go where the fish are. You need to decide on your target audience (please be more specific than "everybody") and target them. Simply putting an ad in the local newspaper is not enough. Put together an Initial Prospect Offering packet to send to potential clients. It should include things like your biography, a summary of the type of services you provide, how you will get paid, testimonials from happy past customers and a sheet answering as many client questions as possible. No matter how basic it is, you will be far ahead of the vast majority of financial advisors, who might send a brochure and their business card, and nothing else.

Ultimately, what is for sale is you, your integrity and expertise, and not the business name on your door or the financial products that you sell. In this hyper-competitive business world, nearly anything that will help you stand out from the crowd is highly recommended. This is highly recommended and it is very easy to read.

Friday, July 19, 2013

E-learning 101

E-learning 101, Liz Hardy, Amazon Digital Services, 2012

You have been away from education for a number of years, perhaps earning a living, or, for whatever readon, physically attending college is not possible. You have heard about this thing called e-learning, but you wonder what it's all about. This ebook gives the answer.

The most important thing to learn is that no one will stand over you making sure your assignments are done. You can do them in your pajamas if you wish, but the obligation to hand them in on time is totally up to you. Before the course starts, make sure you can sign in to the education website. Find the spots where you can get, and hand in, your assignments. Also, find the spot where you can communicate with the teacher.

No time for school? Take a good look at your daily schedule. Maybe you can find only an available half-hour here or hour there, but multiply that by seven days, and you suddenly have more than enough time to study. Feeling less then motivated to study? You'll do the assignment "tomorrow"? This is where you have to discipline yourself to actually do the work, now. If not, then why are you taking the course? Set up a reward, like watching your favorite DVD, for after you finish the assignment.

Set up some kind of early warning system, whether paper or electronic, for major events, like exams or term papers. Deadlines are never fun, but, suddenly realizing that a multiple-page paper is due tomorrow, and you haven't started it, is much worse.

This book does not try to say what course, or what major, you should choose. It looks at the basics of e-learning, and does an excellent job. It is short, and very easy to read, even for those who think that they are "too old" or "too (whatever)" for school. It is well worth the reader's time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA

Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, Charles S. Faddis, Lyons Press, 2009

As shown in the title, the author, a CIA veteran, doesn't believe that the Agency needs fixing or "tweaking." He strongly believes that it needs to be torn down and totally rebuilt.

During World War II, in the days of the OSS, a person or group was given a mission, which usually involved being dropped behind enemy lines, and was told to make it happen. They treated intelligence work as some sort of holy calling. Today, the CIA is filled with bureaucrats and buck-passers who consider it as merely another federal job. It is thought of as a cardinal sin to make waves, even if it will save American lives. The solution to intelligence failures, like 9/11, seems to be to add layers of bureaucracy and "coordination" instead of reducing it.

The US Army's ROTC program trains and continually evaluates potential officers. If a person doesn't measure up to Army standards, they are asked to leave the program. The CIA has no such training program. A person could be a wonderful case officer, but be totally incompetent in a position of leadership. Despite the CIA's rigid bureaucracy, they still know how to put together a covert operation in days, or even hours, when an intelligence opportunity presents itself. Other agencies, like the military and FBI, need months and months of briefings, re-briefings, evaluations and approval from several different people before there can be a final approval. That is why the author strongly feels that the CIA should be the only foreign intelligence agency, and that other agencies should stop their foreign intelligence operations.

In a US embassy overseas, the ambassador is the boss. No covert operation happens without his (or her) approval. The ambassador works for the State Department, whose top rule seems to be "Don't upset the host country", even if that covert operation will save lives. Occasionally, there will be visits from Washington bureaucrats, who would not know a covert operation if they tripped over it. They usually have this wonderful intelligence idea, which sounds great in a Langley conference room, but on the ground, is an amazingly stupid idea.

Physical training for covert agents used to be very rigorous, because an agent had to be able to deal with almost anything. Over the years, standards have been reduced to almost zero. What was "very rigorous" training is now something like mildly stressful. The CIA is in strong need of people on the ground, so physical standards have been reduced to the point where people from other divisions have been let in to the program. It doesn't matter if they have asthma, diabetes or some other major ailment. If they complete the course (there are no repercussions if they don't), they suddenly think they are qualified to go overseas and work on real covert operations, right next to someone with 20 years experience.

This is a very scathing book, but it is much needed. Regardless of your opinions about recent CIA actions, America needs some sort of foreign intelligence agency. This book is an excellent place to start putting together such an agency the right way.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss

Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Gloria Tsang, HealthCastle Media, 2010

Like most people, you have tried every diet known to man. Whatever weight you are able to lose comes right back. After 14 or 28 days, or however long the diet lasts, do you go through the whole cycle again? Instead of getting discouraged, or believing that you are destined to be overweight forever, there is an alternative.

Forget about dieting. Forget low-carb/high-carb, or low-fat/high-fat. This book provides easy actions, that anyone can do, that can only help your weight loss. In addition to reading the nutrition label, also read the ingredient list. The shorter the list, the better; if it contains anything that sounds like it belongs in a chemistry experiment, put it back on the shelf. If you feel the need to cut back on anything, cut back on your salt intake. Items that say they are "low fat" use chemicals to replace the taste that was removed with the fat.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are best, but don't ignore those that are frozen or canned; they can be just as nutritious. Stay away from products with cartoon characters on the box. Also stay away from products with partially hydrogenated oil. When it comes to meat, it has less fat and calories than many junk foods. Choose meat from animals that are raised naturally, and totally avoid processed meats. Drinking several glasses of water per day can be very boring, so add a tea bag or some frozen fruit.

Use produce to put some color in your diet. When looking for a multivitamin supplement, choose one that is right for your age and gender. Don't worry if you can't prepare a home-cooked meal every night; any home cooking is better than nothing. Don't be afraid of fish; it isn't all high in mercury.

Don't try to do everything in this book at the same time. Pick just one action, and do it for a week. When you have it firmly under control, add another action to it. Losing weight does not get much easier than this. It is very easy to read, and will work for anyone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mossad X

Mossad X, Ori Rotem, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013

This novel is about the lengths to which a father will go for his daughter.

The book is set in present-day Israel. Nili works for the Mossad. Yakov, a senior figure in the Mossad, sets up a meeting with her for the next day. The rumor is that the subject will be about Paris. Reuven, another senior Mossad figure, can't let the meeting take place. Both Nili and Reuven were part of a Mossad team that committed a huge error in Paris a few years previously. Reuven is convinced that Nili is going to tell everything, so she must be eliminated.

An assassination is much too obvious, so Meir, Nili's boyfriend, arranges for her to be brutally attacked, and injected with a drug that paralyzes her entire body, including her vocal cords. Nili is not totally paralyzed, so she is able to tell Eli, her father, that she knows the men involved. Eli kidnaps them and "convinces" them to start talking.

If Nili does not receive the antidote within a few weeks, she will die. Reuven has the antidote, but he is not about to save Nili on humanitarian grounds. Eli and Miriam, his wife and former Mossad employee, come up with a plan to get Reuven's teenage children "out of the way" and convince him that they have been kidnapped. Reuven is given a stark choice: save Nili and his children will be freed. Otherwise. . .  Does Nili survive? Do Eli and Miriam survive? Is the huge error in Paris made public?

This one is really good. It's about a father's love for his children, and the things they will do to protect them. It also has plenty of intrigue, and yes, it is very much worth the reader's time.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Vampyric Variations

Vampyric Variations, Nancy Kilpatrick, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2012

Here is a collection of new and different vampire stories, written by one of the masters of the field.

For hundreds of years, a small village in Rumania has played host to an ancient man who does not seem to age. The job of taking care of him has fallen to one family; the responsibility is passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. He is kept in a cage, and deliberately kept weak, so he will not be a threat to the villagers. Count Dracula is in Victorian-era London, and is quite disgusted by what he sees around him. In a zoo, he finds a wolf who still has plenty of "wild," and helps it gain its freedom.

Turning women into vampires, and making them your "followers," may not be such a great idea if they still have the ability to perform sexually, but you, their "maker," have lost it. The eternal search for vampire victims enters the 21st century, with a blog called Vampires Anonymous. Vampires are not limited to Southeast Europe. They can also be present-day domestic servants in Southern California, originally from Ecuador. There are also a couple of longer "classic" vampire stories, that involve lust and romance.

I am not much of a horror reader, but I really enjoyed these stories. They show other aspects of the vampire world, and the "horror" part is not overwhelming. Vampire readers will love this book (if you have not yet read anything by Nancy Kilpatrick, what are you waiting for?), and everyone else will also like it.

Welcome to Sarnia

Welcome to Sarnia, Jan Musil, 2012, self-published

In Mankind's expansion through the galaxy, one of its conquests was the inhabited planet of Sarnia. They ran the planet for about 40 years, until they were beaten by the Mi'ukmac. That was over 130 years ago.

Sarnia is a busy place. Before Mankind came, the planet was run by the Toharrians. Several plagues devastated the three indigenous species, leaving large areas of Sarnia's one continent uninhabited. After the Mi'ukmac took over the planet, they herded all humans into one small area on the eastern edge of the continent. Humans were presented with several good reasons why any attempt to expand their area of residence is a bad idea. Just to make things more complicated, the Mi'ukmac control Sarnia, but they don't administer it. They handed that to another race, the Nu'homish.

Years before, a human rebellion caused the Mi'ukmac to shut off all electric power to the humans, and they show no inclination to turn it back on. Society has therefore regressed to a pre-industrial level. A huge complication is the existence of flying predators (something like pterodactyls) that would love to devour an animal or person. That is why all human habitation, farms and towns, is covered by nets and cables strung from trees and poles. That is why there are no fields of grain (the soil is not good for Earth agriculture) or herds of animals in a pasture. Human houses consist of three levels: the top level is the greenhouse, where the agriculture happens; the middle level is the living quarters, and the ground level is where the animals are kept. The Mi'ukmac are also keeping away any new colonists from Earth.

Considering that this is the first of a projected nine-book series, the actual plot may be a little thin. But the author has done an excellent job at society-building. This is a thick book, but, yes, it's worth reading.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound

Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound, Mark Leslie (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and fantasy Publishing, 2012

This latest collection of speculative fiction stories and poems from canada focuses on the subjects of culture and the arts.

A long-time rock music fan is looking for the ultimate AC/DC bootleg tape, which may or may not actually exist. There is a story about language (not any particular language, but language in general) being intelligent. In a world where genetic engineering has eradicated most congenital diseases, the next genetic abnormality to be eradicated is the "art gene." A famous composer lives alone on a space station orbiting Saturn. His final composition involves playing Saturn's rings like an instrument.

There is a poem called "Zombie Poet". A pair of stories explore the world of dance. The first is about a special kind of memory cloth that can transfer insanity to a sane person, and the other concerns a dance competition between humans and aliens. A woman returns to her high school for her 60th high school reunion. She became a famous singer, and she meets up with an old boyfriend (she is white, and he is black). Muses are treated like intestinal parasites, and removed from people, but destroying them is not easy. A man has rented an isolated cabin in British Columbia to write a novel, but what is on the page becomes a little too real. Another story is about genetic engineering, but, this time, humanity has abolished moods, in effect making Prozac permanent. A desperate attempt is made to bring artists about to die forward in time to provide a dying humanity with emotion and creativity.

This is yet another first-rate collection of stories from Canada. All parts of "the arts" are covered, in very unique ways. Individually, these stories are excellent; together, this book is highly recommended.

The Demon Left Behind

The Demon Left Behind, Marie Jakober, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2011

Melusine is a female demon. No, she doesn't have horns and carry a pitchfork. She is an otherworldly being who lives on a different plane of existence. As leader of a group of demons who have come to present-day Earth (in human form) to investigate the 21st century, she realizes that one member of the group is gone.

Wye-Wye is the youngest member of the group, and insatiably curious, so it is very easy for him to follow his own path to satisfy that curiosity. After much diligent searching, and several broadcast summons (respond immediately or else), the group concludes that Wye-Wye is not just hiding or has lost track of time, he is Seriously Missing.

Melusine takes a big chance, and calls in Paige Ballantyne, human investigative reporter, to help in the search. She tells him all about their origin, and why they're on Earth. As a professional cynic, it takes him a while to accept it. Their search takes them to several different cities. In Toronto, Melusine meets Cyprian, an old friend and fellow demon. He has spent too many years in human form, so he is now "stuck"; he can't change back to demon form. Meantime, the relationship between Melusine and Ballantyne turns serious.

The search moves to Austin, texas, and has to do with an academic conference on the "Left behind" series of novels. It's a place where the residents take their religion (specifically, the End Times) very seriously. Stand-up comedy jokes about it are not acceptable. The group of demons gets involved with the leader of a small local militia group. He has a very well-stocked underground bunker, and is not going to just wait for the End Times to come.

This is a gem of a book. It is an easy to read love story, and a search-for-missing-person story, with just enough weird in it. This is recommended for everyone, even those who think that they won't like fantasy or paranormal books.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wildcatter

Wildcatter, Dave Duncan, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2012

Throughout history, there have always been people willing to risk large amounts of money looking for something lucrative in places where no one else is looking. Wildcatters are best known in the oil drilling industry. In the future, there is a different kind of wildcatter.

Mankind is starting to explore the galaxy, but not for the usual reasons. When unmanned probes report the discovery of a suitable planet, the race is on. There are corporations that specialize in visiting alien planets and looking for chemicals that can be turned into pharmaceuticals back on Earth. The risks are huge, and the profits uncertain. But, if a corporation finds something that becomes the future equivalent of a drug like Viagra or Lipitor, the payoff can be immense.

The spaceship "Golden Hind," part of the Mighty Mite Corporation, is racing to the planet Cacafuego. Having to spend more than a year in hyperspace, in the equivalent of a 2-bedroom apartment, makes relations among the crew very important. That is why the crew consists of 2 men, 2 women and 2 hermaphrodites. When they reach their destination, Galactic, the dominant corporation in the field, has put a beacon in orbit. But, it's a "beware of this planet" beacon, instead of a "stay away, this planet is ours" beacon. The crew of the Golden Hind decides to stick around, so Seth, the prospector of the crew, comes up with a very risky plan to land on Cacafuego.

That is not as easy as it sounds, because the planet is barely tolerable for humans. The temperatures are worse than tropical, the gravity is noticeably higher than on Earth and powerful hurricanes go over the potential landing site every couple of hours. The planet is also inhabited. While on the planet, Seth finds that Galactic has broken nearly every rule in the planetary exploration "book". Does Seth find anything potentially profitable? Does he even get off the planet alive?

This is a solid, well-done piece of writing. Duncan is a veteran writer who shows, once again, that he knows what he is doing. The reader will not go wrong with this short novel.

The Writer

The Writer, Emily Sun Li, Itoh Press, 2012

June is your average resident of the planet Pren. It's a beautiful place, with colorful trees and flowers, and birds who tweet Mozart. According to June, it's also really boring. Out of frustration, she fashions something called a pencil out of a piece of coal, and sits down with lots of paper, to write stories of a whole new world. The place is called Earth.

June learns that she is a Writer, with the ability to Write an entire world into existence. One Earth, June meets a young artist named Jackson. He has a hard time believing her story; he has an even harder time believing that he has related "abilities' of his own. As a Writer, the intention is that June create a Writer for Earth, someone who, out of frustration and boredom, will Write a whole new world into being.

Meantime, Vivien is the Master Writer. Her son, Victor, is a manipulative little you-know-what who thinks that he "deserves" to be the next Master Writer. He also desperately wants to be reWritten (reborn). It is used only in cases of extreme emergency. In her Will, Vivien makes June the next Master Writer, and practically begs her to never, ever reWrite Victor. She is afraid that it will magnify his negative qualities (of which he has many). When told that the answer is No, Victor does not take it well. He spends weeks and weeks plotting the "perfect" way to force June to reWrite him. Does it work? Does Earth get unWritten out of existence (always a possibility)?

This one is surprisingly good. The author does a fine job from start to finish. She is only 16 years old (!), but writes like someone older. Young people will love this book; it's well worth reading for adults, too.  

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alternative Lives

Alternative Lives, Allen Pollens, CreateSpace, 2011

This novel is about a journey into a little-known part of the human psyche: what happens when we sleep.

Harold Treadwell is a professor at Jess Hawkins University in Philadelphia. He is known as a workaholic, and has spent his entire academic life at JHU, mostly due to a significant emotional heartache. He has spent the previous five years perfecting a sleep stasis chamber, where people will spend several days at a time sleeping (with mild sedative help). After all, eight hours of sleep per night is known to be mentally and physically therapeutic. Maybe more sleep will be more therapeutic.

The shadowy Omega Corporation gets him federal grant money for a scientific study, and is otherwise a big help. All they want in return is first chance at anything commercial that comes out of it. Treadwell recruits Vincent, Anne and Charles, all JHU students, as research assistants. They put volunteers under for several days at a time. The results are disappointing. Even with an expanded study, and several chambers occupied at the same time, nothing changes for the volunteers.

Everyone has a moment in their lives where they choose Option A over Option B. At 168 hours (1 week) of stasis, the volunteers emerge telling similar stories of living their Option B lives. Omega gets hold of the process, commercializing it, and treats the team very fairly. They want to get back into research. Going past 168 hours of stasis, the reported experiences of the volunteers start getting weird. At 336 hours (2 weeks), something happens to the volunteers which has huge national security implications. The military is Very Interested. Before it can be used, the team decides that the only option is to have Harold go through the experience, and, also, to fix his emotional heartache.

This is a very "quiet" and very intriguing book. The second half is more interestinmg than the first half. It belongs in the large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Moon Is Not For Sale

The Moon Is Not For Sale, Wallace Provost, CreateSpace, 2012

Here is a novel of intrigue set mostly on the Moon.

The operation of a processing plant to mine Helium-3 from the Moon was supposed to be totally automated. That didn't work, so it was not long before a casino was built for the Lunar residents and tourists. It is run by the Cherokee Nation of North Carolina. Annie Taylor is there to investigate the disappearance of a large amount of money.

A solar storm forces her to take shelter with Clint Baker and his family. They found a large cavern, sealed it up. pumped in air and brought seeds and animal embryos from Earth. They now have their own Texas cattle ranch (groups from other countries take over other caverns). Annie finds herself falling in love with Clint and the ranch. She heads back to Earth upon learning that Maddie, her sister, has been murdered.

Annie knows of a few people in the Cherokee community who are high on the list of suspects, the sort for whom the term "human scum" is too generous. They have fled to the Moon, where Earth law cannot touch them. Before her return to the Moon, Annie is contacted by a Bahraini prince, whom the UN has appointed as Governor of the Moon. He offers Annie the position of Lieutenant Governor. The UN decided a long time ago, that there was to be no land ownership on the Moon. If a person or corporation wants to sign a lease, go right ahead, but there will be no landlords charging exorbitant amounts of money for industrial or living space. It also means that Annie will spend the rest of her life on the Moon.After several continuous months on the Moon, the human body can no longer tolerate Earth's gravity. Does Annie bring her sister's murderer to justice? Does she re-kindle her romance with Clint?

On the positive side, this book has some interesting ideas about Man's expansion into the Solar System (money will be a major factor). On the negative side, this book really needs a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader or copyeditor. Despite that, it's a good story of science fiction that emphasizes the science, and, yes, it's worth reading. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Son of Sedonia

Son of Sedonia, Ben Chaney, TIPS Technical Publishing, Inc., 2013

This story is about a young man who is the spark needed to bring change to a near-future Earth.

Less than 100 years from now, Sedonia City is home to over 40 million people. It is a bright, shining city, with giant skyscrapers, and neural implants called meurals that can provide any needed distraction. On the other side of the half-mile high Border is the Rasalla slum. Home to another 20 million people, it was cut off from the Future like a diseased limb, and allowed to collapse. A gang called the T99 runs the slum. Among its residents are brothers Jogun and Matteo.

If an airship, for instance, from Sedonia City is unlucky enough to crash in Rasalla, within minutes it is stripped clean of every useful bit of electronics. Anyone found alive in the wreckage is quickly murdered. During a paramilitary crackdown to root out suspected "terrorists," Jogun is taken away. Matteo manages as best he can, until, several years later, he too is taken into custody (Matteo is not your average slum resident). He finds himself in a prison on the Moon, where the inmates are forced to mine an element called Helium-3. It seems that Sedonia City is in serious danger of using up the entire known supply. If the citizens lose their modern conveniences, things will get very unpleasant for those in power. While in prison, Matteo meets up with Jogun, who tells him some very interesting things about his origin.

The prisoners stage a jailbreak, hijack several ships and head back to Earth, where they plan to do something about their treatment by Sedonia City. It seesm like the entire Rasalla slum is in open rebellion, but not if Sedonia City's paramilitary force, the EXOs, have anything to say about it. There are many pitched battles.

Imagine this story as "Black Hawk Down" in the world of "Blade Runner." It's got heart, emotion, good writing and plenty of action. It is a gem of a book.

Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection

Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection, R.A. Finlayson, Amazon Digital Services, 2012

This book is about a world totally changed by genetic engineering.

GeneTech is, by far, the biggest company in the world. Human youth treatments, that make people look younger than they really are, are common. The world of agriculture harvesting has been turned upside down by XenoMats. Imagine genetically-created, dwarf size, green gorillas with tentacles instead of arms that are bred to pick produce in the fields. Commercial buildings are no longer built with steel and concrete. They are made of genetically created material based on the bones of this animal or the shell of that animal.

Amade Bertrand is a New York Times reporter who has gotten a tip about strange happenings at GeneTech. She wonders why there has never, ever been a negative story about GeneTech in the press. It is because Whitfield Gray, GeneTech's head of PR, has been given, by GeneTech, a genetically-enhanced ability to bend anyone to his will, to make anyone do anything he wants. Is the fact that Amade is falling in love with him real or coerced?

For years, the Church of Traditional Biblical Values has been very vocal in its opposition to genetic engineering in general. A very secret plan is hatched to get a dose of the influence drug, and inject it in the Leader of the Church. His influence will turn America back on the path toward God. It is led by Colonel Ron Savage, who goes up against general Sutherland, GeneTech's Head of Security. The two are ex-military, and have a long and unpleasant history together. A full-blown military assaultis unleashed against a complex of buildings that are full of the latest in high-tech and genetically engineered safeguards.

The author does a very good job at making the characters not all bad or all good. There is no well-defined "good guy" or "bad guy." This story takes place only a few decades from now, it's very plausible, and more than a little spooky. The reader will not go wrong with this book; it's a first-rate piece of storytelling.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gynocracy

Gynocracy, K.J. Blaine, Amazon Digital Services, 2012

This near future science fiction story is about a young man who suddenly finds himself in a very dangerous situation.

Steve Kowalski is a teenaged crew member on the "Phoenix," an interplanetary space ship that is the flagship of the International Space Alliance. He is spending a few days leave in Miami, helping to design a new star drive. Next thing he knows, Steve finds himself in a tiny jail cell in a very special place called Juno Colony. It's on the far side of the Moon, and does not recognize ISA authority. The "special" part is that not only do women rule the colony, but men have no rights at all; they are lower than slaves. There are some men who, emotionally, want to be treated like that; Steve is not one of them.

Learning of Steve's plight, the rest of the crew is not going to just leave him there. A bold and daring plan is conceived, which involves several crew members visiting Juno dressed and acting like dominatrices (plural of "dominatrix") and their slaves. Steve was forced to sign papers making him the property of an arrogant, manipulative little you-know-what named Gianna, who is not going to give him up very easily. The male members are forced to enter the colony's gladiatorial games. Officially, the contests are not to the death, but if a contestant dies in the ring; oh, well. As an added complication, the losing male slave automatically becomes the property of the winner's Mistress. To make things look as legitimate as possible, the male members of the rescue mission signed the same ownership papers. Is Steve saved from a lifetime of slavery? Do all the members of the rescue mission make it out in one piece?

This one is surprisingly good. There is one mild bit of S&M, and no actual sex. What it does have is heart, emotion and good writing. Yes, it's worth reading.

Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction

Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction, Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach (ed.), Crossed Genres Publications, 2013

Most science fiction stories are bout tall, square-jawed adventurers exploring the galaxy and singlehandedly vanquishing the alien foe. What about the people who perform the unexciting "blue collar" jobs that make the voyages possible?

A being, of indeterminate gender, maintains a ship's waste treatment system. A female asteroid miner has a unique companion. It is an alien-constructed being, made from human sperm. It looks exactly like a human, but, on the inside, there is no mind or personality. Imagine an episode of the TV show "The Deadliest Catch" moved to the asteroid belt.

On Titan, a human miner is caught in the conveyor belt that carries the pieces of rock out of the mine, and deposits them in a giant pile, in open vacuum. A trio of women spens their days walking on top of a domed city, patching up holes and cracks in the dome. Another story takes place on an Earth that has run out of energy. The only working motor vehicles are those that people build themselves. There is also a news story about the hazards involved in being part of the crew building a space station in orbit.

This is a strong, well done group of stories about a not-well-known part of society. There is a good variety of stories, from lesser-known authors, that are well worth reading