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Enchanted, Inc.

Urban fantasy as chick lit, not paranormal romance. Light and fluffy, with heavy emphasis on the job.
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The (kinda) former supervillain adds a few more lines to his character sheet.


Secrets of a D-List Supervillain

Self-published, 2014, 196 pages



Cal Stringel may be dead to the world at large, but a select few know that he's still alive and in control of the most powerful suit of battle armor ever created. He's part of a rogue superteam taking the world by storm and changing the dynamic for both heroes and villains alike. With change comes resistance, and those holding control and power are not ready to just hand it over without a fight.

For the former D-list supervillain, it's time to break out the spare synthmuscle, charge the massive railgun pistol, and bring the pain. With his new team, he thinks he can take on the world, but is Cal biting off more than he can chew? He must deal with sanctioned hero teams and power-mad bureaucrats on one side and the major supervillains of his world on the other.

As Cal and his allies ready themselves to face friend and foe, he will also have to deal with his relationship with Stacy Mitchell, also known as the Olympian, Aphrodite. Separated for more than a year, they've only just reunited and are faced with the prospect of being on opposite sides of the coming conflict. Can they find enough common ground between the secrets and half truths to sustain their fledgling relationship, or are they doomed like the last time to crash and burn?


Still fun, but not as solid as the first book.


Also by Jim Bernheimer: My review of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain.




My complete list of book reviews.

Nobody Likes a Goblin

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

Got a freebie through Goodreads. A light, cheerful picture book with charming art. And some tweaks that any D&D player will know. . . 'cause Goblin is living in his cave (without monsters in the complex) until adventurers clean out the cave complex , including his best friend Skeleton. So Goblin sets out.

Nice touches like a pair of small dragons watching him along the way.

Warbound

Warbound by Larry Correia

The third book of the Grimnoir Chronicles. Serious spoilers ahead for Hard Magic and Spellbound.
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Spellbound

Spellbound by Larry Correia

The second book of the Grimnoir Chronicles. Serious spoilers ahead for Hard Magic.

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Doc Sidhe

Doc Sidhe by Aaron Allston

Harris Greene's life is falling apart -- he loses both his manager as a kick-boxer and his fiancee Gaby -- when he stumbled on an attempt to kidnap her.  He rescues her, but is trapped himself when the kidnappers jump to another world.

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Although Seymour Hersh's new book is called The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, that's only a small part of its subject matter. It's really a critical indictment of the Obama administration's middle east foreign policy, especially concerning Syria and Turkey. It's also about US relations with Vladimir Putin's Russia. In each of these areas Hersh writes about how US policy is either flawed because of lack of planning, blinding idealism, failure to recognize who the real enemy is, political motives instead of moral ones, and in some cases even outright lies.



Among the controversial assertions that Hersh makes in the book, he alleges that Osama bin Laden was never in hiding plotting future acts of terror, but rather was a sort of prisoner of the Pakistani government, and that his capture was done with co-operation from the Pakistanis, even thought the spin was that they were concealing the fact that they knew where Bin Laden was the whole time. He accuses the Obama administration of double-crossing the Pakistanis that they were working with by announcing the kill ahead of schedule, at a time when it was advantageous for Obama's re-election chances, but dangerous to the Pakistani generals who cooperated with the administration. He also asserts that bin Laden's body was never buried at sea, and that the PR campaign to win points off of the announcement was riddled with falsehoods.

Much of the book is a criticism of Obama's policy in Syria. He argues that Turkish president Recep Erdegon is the real villain of the piece and that Erdegon was complicit in chemical attacks on Syrians in an attempt to incite the US to depose Syrian leader Assad. He also claims that Erdegon is aiding Syrian rebels who are more of a threat to US interests than Assad. It's not that Hersh is pro-Assad. For him it's a matter of pragmatism.

Hersh's allegations might otherwise be completely lacking in credibility, were it not for his usual array of very credible sources, perhaps the most compelling of which is former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, whose support Hersh attributes for most of the positions that he is espousing. Dempsey was recently replaced by a successor who the author claims is more in tune with his president's way of thinking. Other sources include a Hawaiian member of Congress (a former veteran and now a member of the House Armed Services committee) and a general who was mustered out for speaking against the party line.

Hersh concludes with an argument that the key to defeating terrorist groups is to work with the other major powers Russia and China, rather than retreating into a Cold War mentality.

Hersh's views will no doubt be seen as controversial and will attract criticism from those who incorrectly see him as some kind of apologist for Assad. His argument is one of pragmatism rather than support. But let's face it, the murky world of Middle East policy is filled with so much misinformation and deliberately obtuse messages that it is impossible for we mere mortals to properly assess the correctness of what Hersh is advocating. The point to be taken from all of this is that it is important to think about these subjects and to have a frank and honest dialogue, free from fear of being accused of being unpatriotic simply for asking the relevant questions and for questioning the government's message. The lessons of history have taught us as much. In this short (124 page) volume, Hersh succeeds in making the reader think about this very important subject. It is well worth the time it takes to read this book.

Hard Magic

Hard Magic by Larry Correia

In an alternate universe, where superpowers -- Passives who can not control it, and Actives who can -- began magically appearing in the 19th century, and many things were changed by that -- the Great War had some particular nightmares -- and while the Nazis were stifled, there is Fascism, and worse, the Imperium.

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The Black Fire Concerto, by Mike Allen

A post-apocalytic dark fantasy about a twelve-year-old harper.


Black Fire Concerto

Haunted Stars Publishing, 2013, 185 pages



The Red Empress is the only home Erzelle has known since the day her family was lured aboard and murdered, victims of a grisly ritual meant to make the elite immortal. Erzelle plays her harp for the diners inside this ghoul-infested riverboat, knowing her own death looms, escaping through the music that's all she has left of her parents.

Her nightmare's upended in the space of a day by the arrival of Olyssa, a fellow musician, but so much more.

Erzelle is swept up in Olyssa's quest to find her ensorcelled sister Lilla, a journey across a mutated landscape that leads them to an enemy responsible for the deaths of millions. To stop the slaughter of countless more, the pair has no choice but to draw on the deadly magics that reshaped the world... a power that's as dangerous to its wielders as it is to its foes, that's killing Erzelle even as she fights to control it.


Atmospheric dark fantasy with music and black fire.




My complete list of book reviews.

Red's Planet

Red's Planet: Book 1: A World Away from Home by Eddie Pittman

A little, sweet adventure of a girl on an alien planet.
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Cetaganda

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

A Miles story.  A mystery more than a military tale.  Minor spoilers ahead for the earlier books.

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Komarr

Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold

The continuing adventures of Miles. Spoilers ahead for earlier works.

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Barrayar

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

The second adventures of Cordelia.  Spoilers ahead for Shards of Honor.
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Hoka

Hoka by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson

The continuing comic adventures of those amazing alien teddy bears who love playing out fiction, and Alex, still plenipotentiary, trying to cope.

Four stories here, longer than the first ones. We have a baseball episode, interstellar intrigue that the Hokas tackle like Foreign Service novels, a Jungle Book adventure with three aliens -- and Tanni instead of Alex, for once -- and a final grand adventure centering around a Hoka Napoleon.  For once, Alex actually has to explain that a Hoka can call himself Napoleon and still be sane.  By Hoka standards.  It even provides a resounding conclusion.

Folktales

Folktales Of Hungary by Linda Dégh

A collection of folktales.  Starting with the fairy tales, which combined a number of motifs in forms I had never seen before. There are no top pop culture ones, even in variant form, and some new motifs -- like the factory that churned out devil.  Also a collection of jokes, tales about fools and wise men, legends, and notes at the back about sources and tale types.

Folktales of Egypt by Hasan M. El-Shamy

Also a collection of folktales. The fairy tales are of recognizable types -- if you are very familiar with a large range of tales -- in new forms. Also religious and philosophical ones, tales of fools and tricksters and more.
Seymour Hersh is one of America's top shelf investigative journalists and in his 1997 work The Dark Side of Camelot he sets his sights on the Kennedy mystique and legend in all its facets and dimensions.



Hersh traces all things JFK, going back to his maternal grandfather, former Boston Mayor John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, as well as his father, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, in an effort to show how Kennedy learned the influence and power that can can be found in money and politics. He looks at Kennedy's personal life, including his womanizing (with a special look at Kennedy's relationships with Marilyn Monroe, Judith Exner, Ellen Rometsch and Durie Malcolm, who, according to Hersh, was actually JFK's first wife) and his relationship with the over-prescribing and unethical Doctor Max Jacobson (a.k.a. "Dr. Feelgood"). He also looks at Kennedy's rise to power and the less than savory tactics used by Kennedy to win the Democratic Party's primaries and nomination, and later to win the presidency. He also explores Kennedy's relationship with the Mafia, including mobsters Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli, and alleges that Kennedy made secret deals with them for their help in close elections in the West Virginia primary and in Illinois during the general election and later enlisted their help in an obsessive Ahab-like quest to kill Fidel Castro.

Hersh also explores the major events of the Kennedy presidency, including the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the coup in South Vietnam that resulted in the the assassination of the Diem brothers. Hersh makes it clear that for the most part, he thinks little of Kennedy, though he does not say so that bluntly. He is critical of Kennedy for making it appear that he beat the Soviets in a game of chicken during the Cuban missile crisis, concealing the fact that he traded the removal of missiles in Cuba for the removal of missiles in Turkey, in an effort to get the best political spin for himself. He is also critical of Kennedy for not removing American soldiers (known as "advisors") from Vietnam before the Diems were killed, because he wanted to wait until after the 1964 election before doing so.

One of the most impressive things about this book is the number of interviews that Hersh had with many of those who purportedly witnessed the thing he writes about. These include former CIA, FBI and Secret Service agents as well as a number of former Kennedy administration officials, and some of the women in Kennedy's life. Kennedy's former secretary Evelyn Lincoln is frequently quoted as a source. Where the original players were no longer around, Hersh interviewed their spouses and children, and from many of these sources he claims authentication for many of the facts he asserts. He has also done extensive Freedom of Information Act searches of FBI and CIA files and other government papers, and he has scoured the papers released by the JFK library and refers to interviews from many of the players including Robert Kennedy.

The reader will have to decide for himself or herself whether the dirt that Hersh dishes out about JFK is unembellished or whether Hersh has some unspoken personal agenda. One controversial subject that he does not discuss in depth is Kennedy's assassination, although he does state that nothing in his investigation and in his interviews supported any of the many conspiracy theories. Hersh says that, like the Warren Commission, his conclusion is that Oswald and Ruby each acted on their own. Whatever bias one might suspect, the book does not read like a trashy poisoned pen tome. Hersh's discussion of the doings of the Kennedy administration show a good understanding of the issues and are usually backed up either by an account of someone at a crucial meeting, a subsequently declassified document or some finding of the Church Committee. The amount of research that has gone into the book make it difficult to argue with the very thorough author.

Parts of the book appear to portray Kennedy unfairly. For example, Hersh seeks to portray Kennedy as too much of a cowboy during the missile crisis and is critical of the president for acting outside of his circle of military advisors. This fails to give Kennedy proper credit for the fact that the missiles were removed without bombing, and that if he had let himself be influenced by his generals this might not have been the case.

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The book evokes strong reactions and will challenge most readers' prior impressions about Kennedy. For that reason alone, it is an excellent read. Hersh has the ability to tell us something we didn't know. In this book he is thorough, direct and pulls no punches and it is these qualities that make it hard to put down.

A Medieval Book of Seasons

A Medieval Book of Seasons by Marie Collins and Virginia Davis

About the cycle of the year in medieval times.

Opens with a discussion of measuring time in the era, and some other aspects of medieval life, and then four sections on spring, summer, fall, and winter.  Includes a lot of illustrations for Books of Hours, which were heavily conventionalized -- from England to Italy, despite the differences in climate, the activities were usually the same and seldom even shifted by month -- but a good source of information.  Discusses agriculture, animal husbandry, games, and more.

Popular rather than scholarly.

Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison

A brutal story about a girl with a mother who loves her but loves her abusive stepfather more.


Bastard Out of Carolina

Penguin Books, 1992, 336 pages



Greenville County, South Carolina, is a wild, lush place that is home to the Boatwright family - a tight-knit clan of rough-hewn, hard- drinking men who shoot up each other's trucks, and indomitable women who get married young and age too quickly. At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a mercilessly keen perspective. When her stepfather, Daddy Glen, "cold as death, mean as a snake", becomes increasingly more vicious toward her, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that tests the loyalty of her mother, Anney - and leads to a final, harrowing encounter from which there can be no turning back.


Who's the greater villain: the victimizer or the one who stands by him?




My complete list of book reviews.

Doorways in the Sand

Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny

A rather zany book.

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The Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney

The classic novel about Earth being invaded by pod people.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Touchstone, 1955, 228 pages



On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovered an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms were taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loved -- the world as he knew it.
First published in 1955, this classic thriller of the ultimate alien invasion and the triumph of the human spirit over an invisible enemy inspired three major motion pictures.


In which humans fight off an alien invasion just by being stubborn. With bonus reviews of ALL FOUR movie adaptations!

Verdict: Body Snatchers is a classic that's worth reading for its historical impact on the genre, but it reads like what it is, a serialized 50s SF story. The four movies based on it range from good to pretty bad, and I wouldn't recommend you watch all four of them like certain obsessive book reviewers, but you should watch at least one (I recommend either the 1956 or the 1978 version). Rating: 6/10.




My complete list of book reviews.

The Dragons of Dorcastle

The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell

A fantasy/steampunk tale with just a bit pointing toward a far future setting on another planet. . . .

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Quag Keep

Quag Keep by Andre Norton

The very, very, very first D&D tie in.  An actual D&D tie in -- not Advanced D&D.  (Which is why it talks of Law and Chaos.  The nine-fold square does not apply here.)

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Changeling's Island

Changeling's Island by Dave Freer

Tim Ryan is not quite caught shoplifting -- owing to a little help -- but gets in trouble, and finds himself shipped off from Melbourne to an island where his grandmother lives.

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The Quiet American

I just finished reading Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American” and continue to be mystified by Greene’s reputation. I don’t see anything special about him. The novel takes place in Vietnam but might as well be called “The Quiet Vietnamese” for all the dialogue they get. Or perhaps it could be called “The Quiet Critique” since most of the plot is really about a cynical Englishman and foolish American arguing over a young Vietnamese woman while a war takes place in the background, as if Greene finds the French oppression of Vietnamese a banal evil. The novel is entirely from the point of view of the English reporter.

White Cargo

White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh

A history of colonial America's indenture servitude.

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The Golden Bees

The Golden Bees: The Story of the Bonapartes by Theo Aronson

A personal history of Napoleon's family.  From his natal family to about World War II -- the epilogue is about Hitler's attempt to make a gracious gesture by having Napoleon's son 's coffin moved to France.
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Whuppity Stoorie

Whuppity Stoorie by John W. Stewig and Eric R. Marcus

A retelling of a Scottish fairy tale. The plot is recognizable as the same as Rumpelstiltskin even though just about every element in it is different from the one in pop culture. Starting with the main character being a woman whose husband ran off leaving her with a child.

Art is pleasant. Font's a bit odd, and some bits of Scottish dialect are kept on.

The Forbidden Wish

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

A retelling of "Aladdin". Sort of. You will recognize rather more tropes from the Disney version than from any older version (three wishes only, Aladdin's an orphan, etc.) -- but then it shakes them into a new story at least as distant from Disney as it was from the older ones.

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Youth in the Fatherless Land

Youth in the Fatherless Land: War Pedagogy, Nationalism, Authority in Germany, 1914-1918 by Andrew Donson

A study of what happened to school-aged children in World War I Germany. With particular emphasis on their schooling. Ranges from the fiercely belligerent essays they wrote to the detrimental effects on studies of having to stand in line for hours to get food.
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Quarter Share

Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell

A tale of a star-faring merchant ship in the far future. . . .

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Olympos, by Dan Simmons

God, Gods, Heroes, Robots, Monsters, Aliens, Literary References, Post-Humans, Epic SF Weirdness


Olympos

Harper Voyager, 2005, 704 pages



Beneath the gaze of the gods, the mighty armies of Greece and Troy met in fierce and glorious combat, scrupulously following the text set forth in Homer's timeless narrative. But that was before 21st-century scholar Thomas Hockenberry stirred the bloody brew, causing an enraged Achilles to join forces with his archenemy, Hector, and turn his murderous wrath on Zeus and the entire pantheon of divine manipulators; before the swift and terrible mechanical creatures that catered for centuries to the pitiful idle remnants of Earth's human race began massing in the millions, to exterminate rather than serve.

And now all bets are off.


Prospero battles Caliban, the Demogorgon strikes down Zeus, and pretty much all Greeks are assholes.

Also by Dan Simmons: My reviews of Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion, Ilium, and Summer of Night.




My complete list of book reviews.

Leaf by Niggle

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien

A short work by the master -- written in a troubled time in his life -- on art and duty and their meaning in life and afterlife.

Encyclopedia of Fairies

Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures by Katharine Mary Briggs

An exhaustive treatment of the -- ehem -- Good Folk of the British Isles.

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Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

A children's book about wishes.  Four children -- plus their baby brother -- run through any number of permutations of what can go wrong with wishes after they meet up with a Psammead, or sand fairy.  Some of which are more disastrous than others, and some of which need a lot more effort to avoid disaster.

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book by J.R.R. Tolkien

A collection of verse by the author of Lord of the Rings -- given a frame to fit in the universe.  Most existed and were in fact published in places before that work. . . Tom appeared in Lord from here, not vice versa.

Sam's Oliphant poem and another piece of beast lore.  Frodo's Man In the Moon one and another expanded nursery rhyme.  Two narratives of Tom.  Ranging in tone from the cheery and frivolous to the rather sinister. 

The Lore of the Unicorn

The Lore of the Unicorn by Odell Shepard

An exhaustive look at the historical record.
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World's End

World's End by Joan D. Vinge

The sequel to The Snow Queen.  Very different.  Not a panoramic view at all, but a tight first-person account from the diary the main character kept.
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Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson

A hacker in an unnamed Middle Eastern country accidentally starts a revolution, with a little help from djinn.


Alif the Unseen

Grove Press, 2012, 320 pages



Alif has encountered three strokes of bad luck. The aristocratic woman he loves has jilted him, leaving him with only a mysterious book of fairytales. The state censorship apparatus of the emirate where he lives has broken into his computer, compromising his business providing online freedom for clients across the Islamic world. And now the security police have shown up at his door. But when Alif goes underground, he will encounter a menagerie of mythical creatures and end up on a mad dash through faith, myth, cyberspace, love, and revolution.


A more optimistic, fantasy-tinged version of the Arab Spring.




My complete list of book reviews.

Aspects of the Novel

Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster

An interesting look at some aspects of fiction.

The difference between just telling events and having cause and effect. The use of flat characters. Fantasy, which just brushes on the edge of the genre as we know it.

Some parts I didn't like -- like his unexplained contempt for pure story. And the writer may find it a bit abstract.
Get your Johns, Dicks, and Harrys straight — the kings of England in the Middle Ages.


The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

Viking, 2012, 534 pages



The first Plantagenet king inherited a blood-soaked kingdom from the Normans and transformed it into an empire that stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic history, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this fierce and seductive royal dynasty and its mythic world. We meet the captivating Eleanor of Aquitaine, twice queen and the most famous woman in Christendom; her son, Richard the Lionheart, who fought Saladin in the Third Crusade; and King John, a tyrant who was forced to sign Magna Carta, which formed the basis of our own Bill of Rights. This is the era of chivalry, Robin Hood, and the Knights Templar, the era of the Black Death, the Black Prince, the founding of Parliament, and the Hundred Years’ War.


They were playing Game of Thrones before the Lancasters.




My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Cold Fire by John Boyko

Canada and the United States share the world's longest international border, and comprise the vast majority of the North American continent. The relationship between these two neighbors is generally believed to be a friendly one, but as author John Boyko discloses in his excellent new book Cold Fire: Kennedy's Northern Front, the 1960s were a turbulent time for Canada-US relations.



The 60s were a time of significant world tension as the Cold War heated up. Winning election to the presidency on the myth that the United States was falling behind in a missile gap with the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy took office at a time when the threat of nuclear war was at the heart of many North Americans' fears. The newly elected president stumbled out of the gate on the international affairs front, approving the disastrous Bay of Pigs fiasco and finding himself schooled at a meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. As the potential for a nuclear confrontation between the two great powers increased, Kennedy counted on Canadian cooperation in his nation's defense, viewing the Canadian government as a compliant subordinate, rather than as a sovereign and independent nation.

Kennedy had not counted on meeting resistance from the strong-willed and initially popular Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who possessed a passion for a strong Canadian identity, seeing his nation as an equal peer to its neighbor to the south, rather than as subservient or sycophantic. When Kennedy met twice with Diefenbaker, he failed to obtain the concessions he wanted on such controversial subjects as Canadian wheat sales to Communist China, Canadian diplomatic relations and trade with Fidel Castro's government in Cuba, increased Canadian aid to Latin America, Canadian membership in the Organization of American States, Canada's support for Britain's membership in the Common Market, greater Canadian involvement in Vietnam, and the presence of American nuclear weapons in Canada. On each of these contentious issues, the Canadian Prime Minister refused to do as Kennedy wished, for which he earned Kennedy's enduring scorn and contempt.



Boyko tells the remarkable story of how the American President covertly intervened in two subsequent Canadian elections in an effort to defeat Diefenbaker, finally succeeding narrowly in 1963. He also describes how the election of Liberal Lester B. Pearson as Diefenbaker's successor did not end the number of contentious issues between the two nations, though Kennedy was better able to pressure the new Canadian government into compliance with American demands on a number of issues, including putting an end to a proposed budget measure designed to curtail American ownership of Canadian assets and resources.

John Boyko has once again written a well-researched and enlightening history that goes beyond superficiality, and that unveils much of the hidden negotiation and conflict that was kept out of the headlines. He presents a fair picture of the main protagonists of this story, fairly analyzing their strengths and their weaknesses. This book is an excellent account of its times, the personalities involved and of the issues confronting the two nations at the time. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in Canada-US relations, in the Kennedy administration, in Canadian politics in the 60s, in Cold War North America or in the political climate of the 1960s. Boyko has a gift for being able to present history as if it is occurring as current events, to distill and clearly explain complex issues and to present an enjoyable read in the process. It was a great pleasure to read this book and I recommend it highly.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

A classic of the genre on far future planets, after the collapse of a star-spanning empire and the beginning of a new rise.

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Rocannon's World

Rocannon's World by Ursula K. Le Guin

Her first novel.  A classic of planetary romance.

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Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic by Ursula Vernon

The return of Princess Harriet, still the typical rebellious princess with a quirky interest in fractions -- no longer cursed and so no longer invincible. It opens with her bored because of things like ogres taking up vegetarianism to avoid her.

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The Rise and Fall of Merry England

The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400-1700 by Ronald Hutton

A study of the festive year -- straight through the period of the Reformation.

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Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons

Middle America, 1960s, boys' adventure, ancient evil.


Summer of Night

Putnam Publishing, 1991, 555 pages



It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic childhood. But amid the sun-drenched cornfields, their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once-peaceful town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood against an arcane abomination who owns the night....


Dan Simmons writing in Stephen King's shadow.

Also by Dan Simmons: My reviews of Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion, and Ilium.




My complete list of book reviews.

The Border, by Robert McCammon

Two alien races fight a war on a ruined Earth.


The Border

Subterranean Press, 2015, 441 pages



World Fantasy Award-winning, best-selling author Robert McCammon makes a triumphant return to the epic horror and apocalyptic tone reminiscent of his books Swan Song and Stinger in this gripping new novel, The Border, a saga of an Earth devastated by a war between two marauding alien civilizations.

But it is not just the living ships of the monstrous Gorgons or the motion-blurred shock troops of the armored Cyphers that endanger the holdouts in the human bastion of Panther Ridge. The world itself has turned against the handful of survivors, as one by one they succumb to despair and suicide or, even worse, are transformed by otherworldly pollution into hideous Gray Men, cannibalistic mutants driven by insatiable hunger. Into these desperate circumstances comes an amnesiac teenaged boy who names himself Ethan - a boy who must overcome mistrust and suspicion to master unknowable powers that may prove to be the last hope for humanity's salvation. Those same powers make Ethan a threat to the warring aliens, long used to fearing only each other, and thrust him and his comrades into ever more perilous circumstances.

A major new novel from the unparalleled imagination of Robert McCammon, this dark epic of survival will both thrill listeners and make them fall in love with his work all over again.


The literary equivalent of a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster with overwhelming special effects and a paper-thin story.

Also by Robert McCammon: My reviews of Swan Song and Speaks the Nightbird.




My complete list of book reviews.

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft by Natalie Goldberg

A book about actually turning writing into works of literature.  Particularly novels.

Very personal accounts.  More or less useful depending on how close your writing style comes to hers.

One Year After, by William R. Forstchen

One year after The Day, the author invokes fear and loathing of the federal government.


One Year After

Forge Books, 2015, 304 pages



Months before publication, One Second After was cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should have, a book discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at the dangers of EMPs. An EMP is a weapon with the power to destroy the entire United States in a single act of terrorism in a single second; Indeed, it is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. One Second After was a dire warning of what might be our future... and our end.

One Year After returns to the small town of Black Mountain and the man who struggled to rebuild it in the wake of devastation: John Matherson. It is a thrilling follow-up and should delight fans in every way.


A decent sequel, but not a gripping one.

Also by William R. Forstchen: My review of One Second After.




My complete list of book reviews.

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