Month: January 2016

Review of ‘Life is a Beautiful Thing’

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Meme is a human therapist for androids. He’s also a pollution addict. These two things come together when he meets a beautiful android and falls for her, and then finds himself in the crosshairs of a corporate executive who wants him dead.

Harmon Cooper’s Life is a Beautiful Thing is cyberpunk fiction at its grungy best. Part dystopian fiction, part science fiction, and part rant, it will keep you reading and scratching your head. Be warned, though, this book contains strong language and graphic gender groping. If you’re not the overly sensitive type, it will definitely help you get your grove on.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it an unbiased four stars.

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Review of ‘Quicker’

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Ell Donsai has a nerve mutation that makes her much quicker than the average human, In addition, she has a way above average intelligence. Her differences make her reluctant to form close relationships. While at the Air Force Academy, she develops an affinity for gymnastics and ends up being selected for the U.S. Olympic team. Shortly thereafter, Ell finds herself in the center of a deadly terrorist plot, and she has to use her amazing speed and intellect, not just to save herself, but to save the people she has come to care for.

A near future sci-fi tale with a strong female main character, Quicker by Laurence Dahners is the first book in a series that I predict will have a long and successful run. Crisp dialogue, lightning fast action, and characters you either love or hate, but cannot ignore, this is the kind of science fiction that should be considered for a SyFy channel series.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Apocalyptic Fears II’

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Apocalyptic Fears II is a collection of 12 tales of the world after things fall apart. The 11 authors featured in this box set are at the top of their game in the indie and small press world, with an assortment of stories of what the world might be like after devastating war, alien invasion, and other assorted tragedies. I’ve already read several of these tales individually, and liked them, but it was nice to have them all together in one place for the time when I feel like binging. It was a treat to re-read such stories as ‘And then There Were Giants,’ by Greg Dragon. This collection of extremely tall tales is a great read for fans of the genre. There is something for every taste, including a zombie western.

Don’t miss out. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Dark Knight: Armchair Analysis’

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‘The Dark Knight,’ second in the trilogy of Batman films, was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the past few years—notably because it was Heath Ledger’s last film before his untimely death. Batman fans have probably killed many hours arguing over the film’s symbolism. In Dark Knight: Armchair Analysis by Film Philos, the author explores the characters and main themes of the movie in depth.

This is an interesting book, with some fascinating takes on the interplay between and among the main and supporting characters, and an excellent exploration of the many contrasting themes in the film. The analysis of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker and the dichotomy of Batman-Bruce Wayne are perhaps the best of all.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review—and, I have to confess that it’s difficult to be totally unbiased, because I’ve been a fan of Batman since reading Batman comics way back in the 50s and 60s. I found myself agreeing with the author’s analyses for the most part—except his view that Rachel, Bruce Wayne’s love interest, was a traditional ‘damsel in distress.’ My own view is that Rachel acted as a catalyst, both for Bruce Wayne and Arthur Dent, in that her death devastated Wayne and tipped Dent to the dark side. I also found a number of grammar errors (e.g., ‘Rachel whom ends up dead’) and misspellings that should have been caught in the proofreading stage. These small errors aside, the book was a great read, and anyone who reads it will have an advantage the next time there’s a Batman confab in the local gin mill.

I give it four stars for an otherwise excellent analysis, grammar and spelling notwithstanding.

Review of ‘The Sixth Shotgun’

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“It is this by which we measure a man, by what he does with his life, by what he creates to leave behind,” – Louis L’Amour. These words describe perhaps better than any the essence of noted western author, Louis L’Amour, the man who set the standard for the western genre.

The Sixth Shotgun by Louis L’Amour, edited by Jon Tuska, contains two of L’Amour’s most famous works, the short work from which the book gets its title, ‘The Sixth Shotgun,’ a tale about a stagecoach robbery and frontier justice, that details in pithy passages the course of justice in many frontier towns of the Old West. The longer work, ‘The Riders of the Ruby Hills,’ is one of L’Amour’s typical range war novels, with lone hero, Ross Haney, facing off against gangs of killers and ne’er-do-wells, while contending for the hand of the fair maiden.

For fans of westerns, Tuska’s editorial notes, giving L’Amour’s biography and discussing his writing style, are fascinating. The fact, for instance, that L’Amour’s novels were often written in first draft with no editing before publication, leading to inconsistencies and errors, was something I was not aware of. Especially considering that the short stories he wrote for pulp magazines were strenuously edited. That said, L’Amour’s stories still stand the test of time. They are full of action, vivid descriptions, as well as his trademark hard-nosed philosophy.

This one is a must-read for western fans. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Last Call’

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Approaching 40, Bill Travis is unmarried and has no serious attachments. His job is helping people move money—not money laundering, he’ll be quick to state, just putting where it needs to be. When Julie Simmons walks into his office and asks for his help, while at the same time telling him he should run as far away from her as he can because her middle name is Trouble, his curiosity gets the better of him.

Travis treks across North Texas with Julie, his friend Hank Sterling, a Vietnam vet with a penchant for explosives and a dangerous secret, to retrieve a missing child and two million dollars, all the while dodging the law and Archie Carpin, the last of a criminal dynasty, who is willing to kill to get the money back that Julie stole from him.

The Last Call by George Wier is a fast-paced thriller that combines the author’s knowledge of the underside of the Lone Star State with a perceptive understanding of the things that motivate people. Oh, and lest I forget, a fantastic way with the English language. Wier’s characters, including the setting itself, come alive on the page.

I look forward to reading future Travis adventures. This one gets five stars.

Review of ‘I Will Breathe’

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It has been eight hundred years since the Great War. Liberty has grown up in this world, her home in an airship built by her adoptive father. Since he died, Liberty has been focused only on surviving from day to day, her only responsibility to herself. Then, she is given responsibility for a small, child-like robot.  From this small, mechanical creature, Liberty learns about love and humanity—she learns to ‘breathe’ for her new charge, and in the process, learns to live.

I Will Breathe by Regina Puckett is a look at a war-ravaged future that will tug at your heart strings. She shows how one can learn to be human through the power of love, even love of non-human creatures. Puckett is a master at creating a believable future world and populating it with characters that you can’t help but identify with and have empathy for.

A quick read, you’ll want to read it again and again. A solid five-star book!

Review of ‘Black Sands’

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Danny Bowen was an activist hacker who founded a group called Nameless, designed to expose the global surveillance network. When the group started looking at bringing down governments, Bowen said no, and jumped ship—just in time, as a crackdown led to the other members of Nameless going to prison. The others, that is, except the brilliant hacker Cassandra who managed to outwit the authorities.

When Bowen, who is trying to change his black hat hacker status to something more respectable, is hired to investigate a hacking attack on a private equity company, he uncovers a plot even more deadly. He soon finds himself in a race for his life against the Russian Mafia and a sociopathic billionaire, and having to reconnect with Cassandra just to stay alive.

Black Sands by Carl Goodman is a compelling mystery with all the usual elements; good vs. evil, a flawed hero, and a deadline for the hero to solve the situation or else. Goodman starts off with high tension, and manages to ratchet it higher until it reaches an . . . no, I won’t tell you. Read it for yourself and find out. I give it four stars, if that’s any help in making you decide to read it.

Review of ‘Ray Courage Mystery Boxed Set’

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I’ve read the first four Ray Courage mysteries by Scott Mackey, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I received a free copy of Ray Courage Mystery Boxed Set in exchange for my unbiased review. Well, since I’ve already given high marks to the individual books, I can’t very well not do the same when I have them all in the same place.

I binge read them on a cold December afternoon, sitting in my garage, because my wife won’t let me smoke my pipe in the house, and it was too cold to sit on my deck. Going back and revisiting Courage Begins, Courage Matters, Courage Resurrected, and Courage Stolen, I honestly ignored the frigid temperature—well, a lit pipe helped. An enjoyable trip as I followed former-college professor turned PI Ray Courage on his madcap and often life-threatening adventures.

If you like your mystery with a combination of hard edge and humor, you’ll love the Ray Courage mysteries. Of course, I’m giving this set five stars.

Review of ‘Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers’

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Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers by Michael McCarty is a gem. A collection of 35 interviews with some of the biggest names in sci-fi and horror fiction and film, this book is chock full of sage advice for those who want to write in these genres, or fans. It gives a down and dirty look at what drives or drove such greats as the late Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, and others who have given us books and films that have become classics.

This is a book that you’ll want to read again and again. It’s now in my reference library, and I proudly award it five stars–only because I can’t give it six.

Domains: Seven Things You Need to Know

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Looking for more info? Previously, we explained what a custom domain is and offered tips on picking out a good domain name. You can also browse our support pages on domain-related topics.

Many bloggers choose to make their web presence more personal by using their own custom domain (yourgroovydomain.com instead of example.wordpress.com, for example). If you’re thinking about registering a custom domain or already have one, there are a few important things you need to know that will help you successfully manage your domain registration.

Know the parties involved in domain registrations

When you purchase a domain via WordPress.com (or any other registrar), it might seem like a quick, click-the-button-and-it’s-done process. But several entities come together to make your registration happen smoothly:

  • ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers): a nonprofit organization that sets and enforces rules designed to keep the Internet secure and stable. Each of…

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Review of ‘Apocalyptic Fears I’

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Apocalyptic Fears I is a box set of 14 apocalyptic stories, edited by David VanDyke, and containing his story, ‘Reaper’s Run,’ as well as 13 other stories by authors such as Marilyn Peake and David Beers.

I’ve previously read and reviewed Peake’s stories of a secret government program to create an army of zombie soldiers, and the first two in the series, ‘Mutation Z,’ are included in this collection.

Each author comes at the post-apocalypse world differently, with stories that are as fascinating as they are far-fetched. And, each gives readers a chilling look at what things will look like when civilization fails and life as we know it ceases to exist. Whether it’s a takeover by a superior AI with the aim to create the perfect—and totally subservient—human, or when those hungry for power overreach in their efforts to take and hold it, fans of the genre will find a story here that will tap into whatever is his or her greatest fear.

A few of the stories could have used a bit more proofreading, but the few gaffes that were missed don’t detract from some great storytelling.

I received a free copy of this set in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Girl Jacked’

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War vet Jack Stratton suffers PTSD connected with the loss of his best friend, Chandler, in Iraq. Now a cop, Jack is wrestling with the demons of his past, including turning his back on his adopted family. When he hears that Chandler’s sister, Michelle, is missing, he is forced to face the past. While the police think Michelle might have just taken off, Jack knows that she’s not the kind to do that—not like he did. When her body is found, he discovers that she had another life, and wonders if it caused her death.

I received a free copy of Girl Jacked by Christopher Greyson in exchange for my unbiased review. This is a finely-tuned mystery with many plot twists and turns to keep you on edge. Jack Stratton is the perfect anti-hero, a man who struggles with demons, some of his own making, but who always tries to do what’s right.

The right thing for you to do is pick up a copy of this book, and read it. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Last Priestess’

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The Songmaker, a name only whispered. A ruthless rebel, he’s bringing civil war to the peaceful kingdom of Amaury. The only saviors capable of defeating the Songmaker are Madgwin, tormented by the desire for revenge and Rovann, a loyal mage haunted by his many failures. In order to prevail over their foe, they must ally, and Rovann must defy the king he’s sworn to protect. First, though, they must learn to trust each other.

The Last Priestess by Elizabeth Baxter is a compelling fantasy that looks at the depths of human emotions, as the exigencies of the moment war with inner demons and doubts. Baxter crafts a good story, which is what fantasy fiction should be. Kudos for a fascinating read. Four stars.

Review of ‘Seal of the King’

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The war between good and evil has been waging forever. David, a farmer in the modern world, and Aurora, a warrior in another dimension, have been having visions of each other since childhood. When Aurora’s life is threatened, a rift opens between their worlds, and David rescues her. As they learn each other’s histories, they also learn that they have a mission to fulfill, confront the dark one for a final showdown, but is faith enough to prevail.

Seal of the King by Ralph Smith is an interesting story, brilliant in places. It is really quite exciting for the first two thirds of the book, until it reaches the part where David and Aurora must vanquish the Dark One. Then, however, it takes a detour into their relationship for the rest of the book, telling an entirely different story.

The author is good with words, but needs to have a better grasp of plotting and theme – and not try to tell two stories in one book like this. I enjoyed both stories, just not both together like this.

I give Smith four stars for his wordsmithing abilities, but only three stars for this story.

Review of ‘Oliver and Jumpy – 31-33’

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I have enjoyed Werner Stejskal’s Oliver and Jumpy books. They’re favorites of my grandchildren, and always contain little lessons of value for young people, in addition to being entertaining. I get free copies of these books in exchange for my unbiased reviews.

Stejskal hits another one out of the park with Oliver and Jumpy: 31-33, a series of stories featuring the elegant cat, Oliver, and his kangaroo friend, Jumpy, as they engage in adventures. In the first story; on New Year’s Eve, the crockery and cutlery comes alive and prepares a feast for all the creatures. A cute little story that’s just fun to read. In story 32, the whales come to visit, and everyone enjoys playing them, but sharks also come, and they pose a danger. Using his wits, Oliver saves his friends. In the final story, Oliver becomes very small so that he can explore the small world among the flowers of the garden.

Interesting stories and superb illustrations make these books a hit with early learners and first readers alike.

I give Stejskal five stars for this one.

Review of ‘The Seekers: Children of Darkness’

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In Stuff of the Stars, award-winning author David Litwack told the story of childhood friends Orah and Nathaniel, and their voyage to find the descendants of the Keepers in the hopes they would be able to help them understand the secrets kept within the Keep, a storehouse of knowledge of the time before the Darkness. I read this book before book one, The Seekers: The Children of Darkness, and became curious about the events that led up to the fateful voyage, events that were alluded to in the second book. After finishing The Seekers, I am even more impressed with Litwack’s ability to create a believable post-apocalyptic world.

Orah, Nathaniel, and Thomas have been friends since childhood. Living in their tiny village of Little Pond, they want more out of life than is offered by the teachings of the vicars of the Temple of Light, but are afraid to challenge the status quo. When Thomas is taken away for ‘teaching,’ and returns with his spirit broken, they become even more determined to break away from the oppressive order. The defining moment comes when Orah is taken for teaching, and Nathaniel defies his father and follows after her to rescue her. Held prisoner in the Temple City, Nathaniel encounters a fellow prisoner, Samuel, who has been imprisoned for decades. He learns that Samuel is a Seeker, who, as he approaches the end of his life, is looking for someone to take over for him, and he believes that Nathaniel is that someone.

Armed with secret instructions from Samuel, he travels with Orah and Thomas in search of the Keep. When they find it, all that they thought they knew is challenged—moreover, they are determined to challenge the iron hold the Temple of Light has over the people.

The Seekers is post-apocalyptic fiction at its best. Without going into great detail, it addresses issues that are relevant today—and nails down the truth; power corrupts, and the desire for power leads to unimaginable evil. It also shows that for evil to prevail, it is only necessary for good people to stand by and do nothing.

If you’re a fast reader, you can probably finish this book in about three hours, but give yourself more time. This is one you need to read slowly so that you can absorb all the messages that it so skillfully conveys.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Trail Hand’

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Bored with life in the little town of San Rafael, Mexico, a lone cowhand seeks work on a horse drive. When he’s ambushed and the herd is stolen, the owner, Don Enrique, and his men, think the cowhand betrayed him. He has to evade them, while fulfilling a promise to Rosa, Don Enrique’s daughter, to get the herd back.

Over the last few years, the western genre has been staging something of a comeback, but nothing beats the style of yesteryear—straight talk, and lots of detail about life in the Wild West.

Trail Hand by R. W. Stone, originally written in the 60s and reissued in 2009, is done in the traditional style; lots of gun and knife fights, loads of western lore, and is the typical story of the lone man fighting the odds in order to survive, who has as much love and respect for his horse as for women.

If you’re a fan of westerns, or are a first time reader, you’ll like this story. It has all the elements of a true western. My only complaint is that the first person narrator, the main character, is not clearly identified early in the story; which makes it a little difficult to get into it right away. Other than that, though, this is a story that rocks.

The author did identify the main character in the book blurb on Amazon.com, but I missed it in the book itself, despite looking carefully for it.

For that reason, I can only give it four stars, instead of the five it probably deserves.

Review of ‘Deadly Coast’

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During WWII, the Japanese provided a horrible bio-weapon to the Nazis during the closing days of the conflict. The German U-boat transporting the weapon was sunk in the Gulf of Aden, sending the dangerous cargo to the bottom. When a group associated with al-Qaida, using Somali pirate raids as cover, mounts an operation to salvage this doomsday device, marine engineer Tom Dugan is once again caught in the middle of a deadly scheme.

Dugan and his partner Alex Kairouz are trying to negotiate the release of one of their crews taken by the pirates. When a link is seen between the pirates and terrorists, governments halt ransom negotiations, and the pirates began executing hostages. When one of his crew is murdered before his eyes, Dugan takes it personally, and mounts his own rescue operation. With a ragtag group of Texas roughs and Russian mercenaries, Dugan soon becomes the only thing standing between the world and Armageddon.

Deadly Coast by R. E. McDermott is another spine-chilling thriller in the Tom Dugan series, featuring the rough and ready Tom Dugan battling bad guys and bureaucrats to save his friends—and, in this case, the world. A stellar cast of characters and enough plot twists to set your head spinning and your heart racing to the stunning finale.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

I give McDermott five stars for this one.

Review of ‘The Demon Master’s Wife’

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In book 2 of the Forced to Serve series, The Demon Master’s Wife by Donna McDonald, Liam Synar and Ania Looren try to come to grips with the fact that Liam has made Ania an unwilling host to the demon, Malachi.

As Ania develops communications with the demon, she learns to trust him, and comes to terms with her own violent past. Meanwhile, Liam works hard to win back her love and trust. In this story, we’re also introduced to Dorian, Liam’s ship’s counselor, and Gwen Jet, a hybrid earthling, who are both drawn to and repelled by each other. Overlaying the complex couple relationships is the specter of Liam’s brother, Connor, who continues his quest to take control of Malachi.

This is a fascinating series; part fantasy, part sci-fi, and part interstellar romance, it contains action, explicit physical encounters, and a large dose of humor, setting it apart from most stories in any of these genres. A delight to read. The cliffhanger ending was a bit of a disappointment, but it has me itching to read the next in the series—so, I guess the author has achieved her goal with that tactic.

I give it four stars.