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Grimoires: A History of Magic Books

By Owen Davies

I’ve often found myself wondering how people started believing in magic in a world of science, and “Grimoires” answers that they never stopped. Magic might be in the “metaphysics” section of every large bookstore, but that’s just an issue of packaging. It may ebb and flow from the cultural consciousness, but belief in magic never completely disappears. In 1943, there were 80,000 practicing fortune tellers in the USA alone.

The first ingredient to the belief in magic appears to be desperation. The less control people have over their lives, the more they are likely to believe in magic, including miracles I suspect. The second is that it should be foreign. Lots of 19th Century magic specialists who were run out Europe for fraud and debt made quite a decent living in America selling the old secrets of European cults. Magic books from Southern Europe sold in Northern Europe and vice versa.

What startled me, but probably shouldn’t have, was the effect of the printing press on the magic industry. Lots of printers made money printing books about magic even from the beginning. It’s interesting to note that people did not consider printing press editions to have the inherent magical quality of handmade, hand written magic books, only magical information.

“Grimoires” includes a spectrum of books. It includes the authors who were true believers, the authors who were conscious frauds, and the authors like Lovecraft who knew they were writing fiction and shook their heads when learning that people tried to find the “Necronomicon” in the library.

Oct. 18th, 2014

Has anyone read Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac? I'm currently reading it, and loving it. I saw it in the library, and after reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, decided to give it a try, and I'm glad I did!

I'm also thinking of reading Cousin Pons. Has anyone read that?

Deep Black Sea, by David M. Salkin

A rippin', bloody bottom-of-the-sea thriller, for fans of monster movies of indifferent quality.

Deep Black Sea

Permuted Press, 2014, 284 pages

It's October, and time to read a few of the horror novels that have been sitting on my shelf!

A gory monster movie in a book - cheap, dump, and entertaining.

My complete list of book reviews.

Fair Exchange by Michele Roberts

I had never read anything by this respected and prolific writer before but was so delighted I have already started on another of her books. It is set in France and in England, in the late eighteenth century and tells the story of two women bearing children out of wedlock in the fluctuating time of revolution, rights and continuing conventionality. There's a hidden secret, not revealed until the end, and much of the story is carried by the 'servant' Louise. Mary Wollstonecraft has a peripheral role and there is a Wordsworthian character who, like most of the men in the book, is less than admirable.
I loved the quality of the writing. There is a scene where the reserved and anxious Annette, pregnant with the poet's baby, is stirring a pan of redcurrants. The seething, boiling mass of red is so beautifully evoked as a representation of her inner turmoil and passion that I read it over and over.
Roberts deals with the predicament facing a variety of women of slender means in an era which hoped to open up the opportunities available to them, but which by and large raised as many difficulties as has existed before.

Julia's House for Lost Creatures

Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

A light-hearted picture book with charming art.  Revolving about Julia, whose house (on a turtle's back) just settled by a seashore.  In retrospect, I don't think her age is quite determined in the book. . . .

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Mirkheim by Poul Anderson

Not quite the end of the adventures of David Falkayn and Nicholas van Rijn.  But close.  It may even be their descendents that carry on the tales, though I don't recall exactly.  I do know that this has a lot of allusions to earlier tales of theirs.

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Persuasion, by Jane Austen

The sailor she rejected when he was poor is now rich, and she's unmarried at 27.


Originally published in 1817, 236 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.

Perhaps the most outright romantic of Austen's novels, with torches carried for seven years, and an Austenian heroine married off more happily than the author.

Also by Jane Austen: My reviews of Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Emma.

My complete list of book reviews.

Nine Coaches Waiting

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

A tale of romance and suspense in the French countryside.

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Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The classic tale of action, adventures, and pirates.
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All Is Grist

All Is Grist: A Book of Essays by G.K. Chesterton

As the title promises, a collection of essays that Chesterton wrote on a whole lot of topics.

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In Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America, first-time author Jonathan Darman writes a wonderful account and analysis of the Presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the concurrent rise of the political career of Ronald Wilson Reagan from B-Movie actor to Governor of California and future president. In doing so, Darman succeeds on so many levels: as a writer, as a political analyst and as historian. In the book, Darman, who refers to the Goldilocks Principle (in which government advisors offer presidents three alternatives, one too hot, on too cold, in order that the advisor's desired outcome would seem "just right"), himself gets it "just right" in giving the reader the perfect account of the era beginning with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and ending with Johnson's decision not to run for re-election in 1968. This book is neither too wordy, nor too superficial. It respect's the reader's intelligence, but is neither pedantic in tone, nor dumbed down. While the era is interesting in its own right, Darman's writing make it a pleasure to read about this very interesting and turbulent time.


The book is divided into three parts. Part I, Shadows, tells the story of Johnson's hasty and unexpected assumption of the Presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, including his lack of consideration shown to the Kennedy family and the ongoing tensions between the old and new administrations. It tells the story of Johnson's success in bringing about the monumental civil rights legislation and other goals which had stalled under his predecessor. Part II, Choosing, describes Reagan's transition from a has-been movie actor to a viable and popular Republican political star. It is also a marvelous accounting of the social upheaval that the nation encountered during 1964, as crime, racial tensions and the seeds of the forthcoming Vietnam War were simmering. The 1964 election was the apex of Johnson's popularity, but also a time when Reagan began to gain notice for his political eloquence at a time when the right lacked a champion. In Part III, The Cost, Darman describes how it all went wrong for Johnson, as Vietnam and unrest at home changed a nation's outlook.

Darman's analysis of his subjects' rise and fall is brilliant. What I especially found compelling was his dissection of the notion that Johnson's domestic and foreign policies were separate unconnected spheres. He makes the case they the two areas were not unconnected at all, and does so brilliantly. I also appreciated his excellent character assessments of Lyndon Johnson and of Lady Bird Johnson as well, letting their words and actions speak for themselves, rather than feeding the reader some stereotypical or preconceived notions of who these people were.

Darman is very objective and approaches this controversial time in history without any apparent agenda. He succeeds in telling the reader about this fascinating period without verbosity, bias or academic overkill. He writes very well and has a natural way with words. If Jonathan Darman's first book is any indication, we can all look forward to his future literary endeavors.

Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City

Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

Volume 13.  Action!  Adventure!  Romance!  Mad Science!

Another year, another books, and once again, the plot rushes on with no concern for boundaries of covers.  Well, almost none.  It does take up after the cliff-hanger, and end on one humdinger of a cliff-hanger.  So -- spoilers ahead for the earlier volumes!

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"Pobby and Dingan" by Ben Rice

It’s a remarkably short work, really a novella and this copy has a second novella in the back. I was assigned “Pobby and Dingan” for class, and it turned out to be an oddly moving story about a girl who loses her imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan. She probably has these friends because life is a little lonely in the Australian outback, a mining town. Everyone in this story has an imaginary life. The majority of people are imagining striking it rich, represented by the father. The mother is still imagining the life she might have had if she’d stayed in England. The brother imagines a life that gets him out of town, including calling his bicycle Chopper.

But the story starts when the girl believes her imaginary friends might be dead and falls ill, kicking off a search for them and a stream of unfortunate events that then have to be worked out.

Queen Zixi of Ix

Queen Zixi of Ix: or the Story of the Magic Cloak by L. Frank Baum

Baum considered this his best work.  I'm not certain I agree with him, but it's certainly one of his strongest.  If you overlook the names, which get a bit unfortunate in places.  A light-hearted thing of fancies and fantasy.
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Osiris, by E.J. Swift

This futuristic story of haves and have-nots was a post-apocalyptic let-down.


Night Shade Books, 2012, 400 pages

Nobody leaves Osiris. Osiris is a lost city. She has lost the world and world has lost her...

Rising high above the frigid waters, the ocean city of Osiris has been cut off from the land since the Great Storm fifty years ago. Most believe that Osiris is the last city on Earth, while others cling to the idea that life still survives somewhere beyond the merciless seas. But for all its inhabitants, Citizens and refugees alike, Osiris is the entire world--and it is a world divided.

Adelaide is the black-sheep granddaughter of the city's Architect. A jaded socialite and family miscreant, she wants little to do with her powerful relatives--until her troubled twin brother disappears mysteriously. Convinced that he is still alive, she will stop at nothing to find him, even if it means uncovering long-buried secrets.

Vikram, a third-generation storm refugee quarantined with thousands of others in the city's impoverished western sector, sees his own people dying of cold and starvation while the elite of Osiris ignore their plight. Determined to change things, he hopes to use Adelaide to bring about much-needed reforms--but who is using who?

As another brutal winter brings Osiris closer to riot and revolution, two very different people, each with their own agendas, will attempt to bridge the gap dividing the city, only to find a future far more complicated than either of them ever imagined.

Osiris is the beginning of an ambitious new science fiction trilogy exploring a near-future world radically transformed by rising seas and melting poles.

400 pages about a sea-themed city of the future and a rich socialite's parties.

The Star Fox

The Star Fox by Poul Anderson

This is a fix-up of three short stories -- in rapid succession, developing the plot straightforwardly.

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Magic by G. K. Chesterton

A play -- unusually for him, especially since it's not just a play format, but to be acted.
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The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

An allegorical critique of British nativism that almost got Rushdie killed - Ayatollahs have no sense of humor.

The Satanic Verses

Random House, 1988, 576 pages

One of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written, The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie's best-known and most galvanizing book. Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil. This is just the initial act in a magnificent odyssey that seamlessly merges the actual with the imagined. A book whose importance is eclipsed only by its quality, The Satanic Verses is a key work of our times

In which the reviewer recalls learning that Muslims take themselves very, very seriously.

Also by Salman Rushdie: My review of Midnight's Children.

My complete list of book reviews.

Red Plenty

Red Plenty by by Francis Spufford

An odd sort of -- tale.  He calls it a fairy tale.  It's a series of vignettes on post-Stalin life in the USSR.

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The Stainless Steel Rat, by Harry Harrison

Belle dames and battlecruisers: a Neutral Good Thief in a sci-fi setting.

The Stainless Steel Rat

Sphere, 1961, 158 pages

Jim DiGriz is caught during one of his crimes and recruited into the Special Corps. Boring, routine desk work during his probationary period results in his discovering that someone is building a battleship, thinly disguised as an industrial vessel. In the peaceful League no one has battleships anymore, so the builder of this one would be unstoppable.

DiGriz' hunt for the guilty becomes a personal battle between himself and the beautiful but deadly Angelina, who is planning a coup on one of the feudal worlds. DiGriz' dilemma is whether he will turn Angelina over to the Special Corps, or join with her, since he has fallen in love with her.

In a civilization that's grown too civilized, only criminals have any fun.

My complete list of book reviews.

Wildfire: Sarah Micklem

cover of Firethorn, a woman with red hair and haunted green eyes looking up
Sire Galan has forbidden his servant and lover Firethorn to follow him to war, but she disobeys. When the army of Corymb sets sail for Incus, she is aboard a ship of the fleet, gambling on Galan's welcome.

But the gods are as apt to meddle with the schemes of a lowborn mudwoman as the best-laid plans of her betters. The searing touch of Wildfire leaves Firethorn shattered, haunted, estranged from herself, and set apart from others.

She feels cursed, but others see her as blessed. Whores come to her for healing, and soldiers search her every utterance for hidden prophecies. Is she a charlatan or a true seer? Even Firethorn cannot answer that question. And Galan is wary of what Wildfire has made of her.

Review on my journal.

Books Read September 2014 (Books 164 - 175)

Here is a summary of my September reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 164: Blood on the Strand (Thomas Chaloner #2) by Susanna Gregory, 2007. 464 pages. Restoration spy thriller.
Book 165: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, 2009. 384 pages. Story of early 19th-Century fossil collector Mary Anning. Reviews of Books 164 and 165.
Book 166: Top Secret 21 (Stephanie Plum #21) by Janet Evanovich, 2014. Unabridged Audiobook (6 hrs, 16 mins). Read by Lorelei King. Latest in this series. Review here.
Book 167: A Modern Witch (Modern Witch #1) by Debora Geary, 2011. 297 pages. Overly fluffy witches proved a disappointment. Review here.
Book 168: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, 2014. 544 pages. Gritty true crime/historical blend set in 1876 San Francisco. Review here.
Book 169: Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2) by Shannon Hale, 2012. 279 pages. Charming sequel that is also a tribute to Gothic romance. Review here.
Book 170: Hour Game (King and Maxwell #2) by David Baldacci, 2003. 723 pages. First-class thriller with high body count. Review here.
Book 171: How to be Both by Ali Smith, 2014. 372 pages. Unusually structured novel with themes of art and the fluidity of gender. Review here.
Book 172: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter, 2014. 416 pages. Police procedural set in 1974 Atlanta. Review here.
Book 173: Last Days by Adam Nevill, 2012. 544 pages. Indie film-maker documenting 1970s doomsday cult stirs up ancients horrors. Review here.
Book 174: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, 2009. 541 pages. Engaging medical drama set in Ethiopia and USA. Review here.
Book 175: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, 2014. 448 pages. Powerful novel about a doctor's experiences in Japanese POW camp. Review here.
Fred Kaplan's 2014 book John Quincy Adams: American Visionary is more than just a simple chronicling the life and accomplishments of the sixth President of the United States and the first son of a president to hold the office himself. Kaplan writes a very cerebral and intelligent biography of John Quincy Adams, telling the reader much about the man's thoughts as well as his deeds. Adams was a very disciplined and dedicated diarist for whom keeping a diary was a sacred task. Kaplan borrows from these diary entries to give the reader a very clear picture of who John Quincy Adams was, sharing Adams' innermost thoughts on a variety of subjects from slavery to Shakespeare and much more. Considering that Adams was a private man who kept his own counsel, that is a very admirable accomplishment for an author.

Kaplan honors Adams in retelling his subject's interesting life. Adams was the son of a founding father who he accompanied to Europe as a child. He was also a life-long student, a brilliant linguist, a persuasive lawyer, a state politician, a US senator, a Minister Plenipotentiary (Ambassador) to several European nations, a Secretary of State, a President and a long-serving Congressman who tilted at the windmills of slavery and of the southern slaveocracy. There is much to tell, and Kaplan does so superbly. In the course of telling us about Adams' life, we learn so much about this very complicated and interesting man that is not contained in typical biographies of him. John Quincy Adams was a very talented poet, and Kaplan shares some of his subject's most delightful compositions with the reader. We are told about Adams' extensive reading of the classics and his translation of classic literature into English and other languages. We are also told of the many trials and tribulations of Adams' life including his and his wife's many health related issues, his financial pressures, the grief caused by his siblings and children, his fight against gag rules in congress and his abhorrence of slavery.

Kaplan's interesting and complex account of the life of his subject makes clear that the title of the book is quite appropriate. The author shows how John Quincy Adams was indeed a great visionary, many steps ahead of the thinking of his contemporaries and how he was able to predict, with accuracy, what was in store for his nation even after his passing. Kaplan also shows us how Adams came to acquire his deep and profound understanding of his nation and his strong moral compass. This is an exceptional biography. The reader with a keen interest in history will find this book a pleasure to read. It is not a biography of the Joe Friday "Just the facts ma'am" variety. It is intelligent, informative and contains an in-depth analysis of its subject, his family, his contemporaries and the very interesting times in which he lived.

The Enchanted Castle

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

Once upon a time -- there were two brothers, Gerald and Jimmy, and a sister, Kathleen, who could not go home from boarding school because of measles, and after some wangling, they ended up staying at the sister's school, where there is a single teacher, the French mistress, staying during the holidays.  Gerald is polite and persuades her it would be nicest all around if they went out by day with their meal in a picnic basket, and they set out in search of a rumored cave.

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The Earth Book of Stormgate

The Earth Book of Stormgate by Poul Anderson

A collection of story stories from his Polesotechnic League universe.

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Trader To the Stars

Trader To the Stars by Poul Anderson

Three short shories about Nicholas van Rijn, the title trader.

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Satan's World

Satan's World by Poul Anderson

A classic tale of SF adventure and aliens.  Some allusions to the main characters' previous short story adventures. . .

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The Skin Trade, by George R. R. Martin

What might have happened if George R. R. Martin had decided to take over Urban Fantasy instead of Epic Fantasy.

The Skin Trade

WSFA Press, 2013 (originally published 1988), 143 pages

Randi Wade's world is spiraling into a dark labyrinth of secrets and lies. Her only friend is keeping something from her. Innocent victims are being savagely attacked and left for dead, all but their skins. There is an eerie connection between the crime scenes and her own father's murder nearly twenty years before, unsolved to this day. Despite this, Chief of Police Joe Urquhart, her father's former partner and best friend, beckons her to drop the case, drop everything. Is he protecting her, or something else?

As the case unfolds, Randi is pulled ever closer to realizing her darkest fear: that werewolves do exist, and they'll do anything necessary to keep their secrets safe in this once quiet town... Even if it means killing their own. All the while, an eccentric but powerful family watches closely from inside the black iron gates of Blackstone Manor, as the horrendous truth behind it all begins to bubble toward the top.

You'll be waiting a lot longer than Game of Thrones fans for GRRM to finish this series.

My complete list of book reviews.

Ex-Communication, by Peter Clines

Book three in the zombie apocalypse-superhero mashup.


Broadway Books, 2013, 352 pages

"All of us try to cheat death. I was just better prepared to do it than most folks." In the years since the wave of living death swept the globe, St George and his fellow heroes haven't just kept Los Angeles' last humans alive - they've created a real community, a bustling town that's spreading beyond its original walls and swelling with new refugees. But now one of the heroes, perhaps the most powerful among them, seems to be losing his mind. The implacable enemy known as Legion has found terrifying new ways of using zombies as pawns in his attacks. And outside the Mount, something ancient and monstrous is hell-bent on revenge. As Peter Clines weaves these elements together in yet another masterful, shocking climax, St. George, Stealth, Captain Freedom, and the rest of the heroes find that even in a city overrun by millions of ex-humans... there's more than one way to come back from the dead.

And now... wizards and demon lords.

My complete list of book reviews.

Hounds and Hunting in Ancient Greece

Hounds and Hunting in Ancient Greece by Denison Bingham Hull

This is an interesting little work, written by a man conversant with both ancient Greek and hunting, to bring the knowledge together.

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The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness; A Complete Handbook for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society by Florence Hartley

Primary source.  Very much primary source.  Which makes that it was published in 1860 noticeably important.
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William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return

William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher

One last time -- you know the plot.

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William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

Once again you know the plot. . . .

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Into the Storm, by Taylor Anderson

A World War II destroyer is trapped on an alternate Earth, in a war between evolved lemurs and dinosaurs.

Into the Storm

Roc, 2008, 400 pages

Pressed into service when World War II breaks out in the Pacific, the USS Walker---a Great-War vintage "four-stacker" destroyer---finds itself in full retreat from pursuit by Japanese battleships. Its captain, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, knows that he and his crew are in dire straits. In desperation, he heads Walker into a squall, hoping it will give them cover---and emerges somewhere else.

Familiar landmarks appear, but the water teems with monstrous, vicious fish. And there appear to be dinosaurs grazing on the plains of Bali. Gradually Matt and his crew must accept the fact that they are in an alternate world---and they are not alone. Humans have not evolved, but two other species have. And they are at war.

With its steam power and weaponry, the Walker's very existence could alter the balance of power. And for Matt and his crew, who have the means to turn a primitive war into a genocidal Armageddon, one thing becomes clear: They must decide whose side they're on. Because whoever they choose to side with is the winner.

A war story suitable for Weird Tales, and it would make a pretty good setting for a RPG.

My complete list of book reviews.
William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

We all know the plot, I trust. . . .

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Rose and the Magician's Mask

Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb

The third of the Rose books.  In which they leave England and travel by boat and train to Venice -- through Talish.  The alternicity of this series is a little --weird.  Spoilers ahead for the first two.
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“The Cipher” by Kathe Koja

I know the title of the novel implies a code and thus a hidden message, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that message is, perhaps literally since this is theoretically a horror novel. I’m sure it is in that genre, but I found the novel more intriguing than scary, perhaps because one of the reasons I left Portland, OR, was to get away from crazy artists. The artists I knew weren’t as faux nihilist as the ones in “The Cipher” (and Koja does present most of them as posers), but it did serve to keep me at an emotional remove.

In summation, it is an expanded and horrific version of the Japanese tale about a bottomless hole people are curious about until they just decided to use it as a waste disposal system… until the first thing they threw in falls down from the sky again. These characters find a bottomless hole, too, but lowering things inside twists them horrifically. Except, oddly, for a video camera that makes a tape upon which different people see different things, like a video ink blot test from Satan.

It gets weirder from there.
A collection of hard SF short stories spanning an entire century of near-future history.

Sex and Violence in Zero-G: The Complete Near Space Stories, Expanded Edition

Fantastic Books, 2012, 514 pages

All the stories of Allen Steele's award-winning "Near Space" series--now in an expanded and revised second edition!

Since its first publication in 1999, "Sex and Violence in Zero-G" has become one of the most long-sought and hard-to-find of Steele's books. At last, this massive collection is back in print--complete with a new introduction, five additional stories, and a revised timeline.

Includes the Hugo Award-winning novella "The Death of Captain Future" and the Hugo Award-winning novelette "The Emperor of Mars."

For astronauts, beamjacks, prospectors and colonists, soldiers and gangsters and rebels in space...

Also by Allen Steele: My reviews of Coyote and Apollo's Outcasts.

My complete list of book reviews.

Circle Time Books

Hello I'm looking for some recommendations of useful books on circle time and activities that can be used with children between 4 and 6.
Also any books involving activities for developing social skills for children ages 4-6.
Any help would be great.
Thank you.
In The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan author Rick Perlstein writes an in depth account of the political and social climate of the United States in the 1970s, and I mean in depth. Perlstein's style reminds me a lot of that of David Halberstam: why use 20 words to describe something, when you can use 200? That's not necessarily a bad thing, as Perlstein is a very witty and entertaining wordsmith. In the book's acknowledgement section, Perlstein thanks his editor for reducing the book's volume (804 pages) by 11.83%. No offense, but the editor could have cut more.

Invisible Bridge

Despite its wordiness, Perlstein provides an excellent chronicle of the turbulent 70s, beginning with the return of the POWs from Vietnam, through the war protests, Watergate, post-Watergate America, the Ford administration, the rise of Jimmy Carter and ending with the 1976 GOP convention. The star of the book is one Ronald Wilson Reagan. Perlstein gives the reader a detailed account of Reagan's meteoric rise, from the confident youth born to a struggling Irish-American family in Illinois, to B-picture movie star, to pitchman for corporate America, and finally to a populist, straight-talking California politician. The book's climax is the titanic struggle for the 1976 Republican Presidential Nomination between the stilted accidental President Gerald Ford and his polished conservative opponent. His blow-by-blow description of the convention is wonderful.

Perlstein provides the details of not only what was taking place before the media, but behind the scenes as well. He also does a terrific job of putting the political doings in the context of whatever else was going on in the nation at the time: what movies and books were all the rage (does anyone remember when the Exorcist came out in theaters?), what other news stories were capturing the nation's interest (such as the Patty Hearst saga) and generally what was happening in pop culture. It is a delightful stroll down memory lane for anyone who can remember the 70s.

Some authors become enamored with the main subjects of their books, but one needn't worry about that with this author. Perlstein portrays Reagan as scripted and self-absorbed, never sincere. He is an equal opportunity offender, managing to dish dirt on every President from FDR to Jimmy Carter (as well as future President Reagan). He is extremely cynical, but his sarcasm is done with a sneer, not with vein-popping vitriol.

One of the book's brilliant ideas is not to publish its source material. Instead that can be found on Perlstein's website. While this might seem non-transparent, as Perlstein points out, readers do not have to pay for published voluminous pages of footnotes (though the author has no difficulty filling the volume with other material.)

This book will likely offend conservatives and especially admirers of Ronald Reagan. If you are not a patient reader or are intolerant of authors who do not use words economically, this is not a good book for you. But if you remember the 70s and are a political junkie who likes to read about details and stories not told in typical history books, this is a very enjoyable read (most of the time).

Candide, by Voltaire

A cynical satire of "the best of all possible worlds."


First published in 1759, approximately 35,000 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Brought up in the household of a powerful Baron, Candide is an open-minded young man, whose tutor, Pangloss, has instilled in him the belief that 'all is for the best'. But when his love for the Baron's rosy-cheeked daughter is discovered, Candide is cast out to make his own way in the world.

And so he and his various companions begin a breathless tour of Europe, South America and Asia, as an outrageous series of disasters befall them - earthquakes, syphilis, a brush with the Inquisition, murder - sorely testing the young hero's optimism.

Voltaire was sharper, but Swift was funnier.

My complete list of book reviews.

Tell No Lies, by Gregg Hurwitz

A psychologist from a wealthy family who now counsels ex-cons has to stop a serial killer.

Tell No Lies

St. Martin's Press, 2013, 371 pages

One misstep puts a man - and everyone he loves - in the path of a relentless killer.

The scion of an old-money San Francisco family, Daniel Brasher left his well-paying, respectable money-manager position to marry his community organizer wife and work at a job he loves, leading group counseling sessions with recently paroled violent offenders.

One night he finds an envelope - one intended for someone else that was placed in his office mailbox by accident. Inside is an unsigned piece of paper, a handwritten note that says, "Admit what you've done or you will bleed for it." The deadline in the note has already passed, and when Daniel looks into it, he finds that the person to whom the envelope was addressed was brutally murdered. But that's just the beginning.

It appears that the killer might have some connection to the offenders Daniel is counseling.

As he scrambles to uncover the truth, Daniel finds more warnings in his office mail, to people whom the police cannot track down, and to victims who cannot be saved. Daniel's efforts to find and help the victims, however, have alerted the killer to his involvement. Next Daniel gets a deadly threat of his own. Now, with the clock ticking, Daniel must somehow appease, outwit, or unmask a seemingly unstoppable killer.

Not a very psychological thriller.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Farthest Shore

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

And here the trilogy ends.  Spoilers ahead for A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan.
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The Hunting Of The Snark

The Hunting Of The Snark by Lewis Carroll

A short tale of mirth and nonsense.  In verse.  Divided into Fittes.

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Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey

The solar system on the brink of war in a good old-fashioned space opera with a few other genres added for spice.

Leviathan Wakes

Orbit, 2011, 504 pages

Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

A little bit of alien horror, a little bit of detective noir, a lot of classic science fiction.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Tombs of Atuan

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Spoilers for Wizard of Earthsea ahead.

I actually read this one first as a child, but I think it works better in this order.

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I was a little surprised that this textbook was written by an American, since America plays such a minor role. Granted, when it was published America was new to being a superpower, but it even makes our roles in the First and Second World Wars feel so trivial.

It was also written before professors stopping putting their own conscious opinions into the textbooks, so we get little authorial asides about which historical figures he wishes to redeem. For example, he goes out of his way to write that the appeasement of Hitler wasn’t entirely Chamberlain’s fault; English memories of WWI were still too painful and the Depression was keeping their concerns economic. The last several Prime Ministers had been trying to help Germany recover to become a market for British goods, and the Germans electing who the Brits thought at the time was just some nutter wasn’t going to stop their desperate economic policies.

The take home lesson from reading these 800+ pages was the precariousness of good government. For 2000 years, England has wavered from good to bad government, regardless of being monarchical or democratic. Power shifts that have little to do with policies and too much with politics change the government of their, and probably most, countries. It’s rather depressing to be reading about a good king or prime minister doing their best only to have it set back by a following incompetent.

And yet progress is made. England did become wealthier and more democratic, often times in spite of their leaders. Progress comes from innovators, grass roots movements, and the expansion of knowledge, while politicians play their games.

Defenders, by Will McIntosh

Defeating an alien invasion only makes things worse, in a bloody, high-concept epic with lots of damaged characters.


Orbit, 2014, 512 pages

When Earth is invaded by telepathic aliens, humanity responds by creating the defenders. They are the perfect warriors--seventeen feet tall, knowing and loving nothing but war, their minds closed to the aliens. The question is, what do you do with millions of genetically-engineered warriors once the war is won?

A novel of power, alliances, violence, redemption, sacrifice, and yearning for connection, DEFENDERS presents a revolutionary story of invasion, occupation, and resistance.

Sure, they can have Australia, no one is living there anymore...

My complete list of book reviews.

Southeast Asian Book Request

Hello everyone! This semester I'm taking a Southeast Asian history class and we have a 'book report' assignment. Basically, I have to pick a book on any subject based within the Southeast Asian countries. It can be historical or modern. The subject that interests me the most is women. Anything to do with women, women's rights, feminism, etc., within Southeast Asia is what I would love. However, if you know of a good book on another subject, like art, music, food, etc., please recommend it. I'd like for something that's not too difficult to read because I only have about a month to read the book and write my report.

According to my professor, the countries allowed to be covered in the book are: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. The book could be on one or more countries.

Thank you very much for your help!

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