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     At Home, Bryson

+++ r2-3/5

I'm just getting tough on authors.  I'll state right up front, I learned a lot from this book.  I learned a lot from his previous book.  The problem was that I wanted more.  I wanted more details and more on the personal lives of the people of the times.  The book takes each room in Bryson's house and attempts to give the history of the western world through a study of the domestic space. He did a great job, and I learned a lot, but I wanted more.  For example, in the study of the bathroom, one of the most important parts is how to handle wiping.  This, to me, is the obvious question.  There is a big piece of the history of the world that is still behind that closed door.  Additionally, in the bedroom, we got a small taste of the crowded world of sleeping and love-making, but nary enough.  The big unanswered question for the bedroom is why do people engage in love-making the way they do?  It is still unanswered.  I'm ready for Bryson's next book, but I want to know everything--this time. 

     I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Bradley

+++ 2-3/5

     A Red Herring Without Mustard, Bradley

+++ 2-3/5

     The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, Bradley

+++ 2-3/5

     The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Bradley

+++ 2-3/5

I'm going to handle all of these Bradley books at once.  First, read them.  They are very entertaining.  The main character is especially engaging.  First, you don't usually find an adult book with an 11 year old girl as the heroine and protagonist.  She is a plucky protagonist and a cross between Wednesday Adams and Sherlock Holmes.  She loves chemistry and poisons, and has two sisters who tie her up and leave her locked in basements and closets.  Really, this is a special character and special books.  They are all murder mysteries, which leads to the first question, why does this little girl keep running into dead people.  That's part of the problem, although the author does his job perfectly in suspending your belief, the plots are just not strong enough to knock these books beyond a rating of 3.  I'd like to get more out of them.  I think you should read them both for the main character and for the brilliant prose of the author, but the plots are a little thin.  Still great books and I recommend them.

     Maximum Ride, Patterson (YA)

R++ 3/5

Fun book and YA to the core.  It's about kids who are the result of DNA experimentation and have wings among other special abilities.  Neat book, fun but kind of predictable plot.  Too much action and too much bad guy suddenly appearing.  I get the fact of the tension in the plot, but the writer really needs to give the readers a breather.  This technique works for a scene or a chapter, but makes for a poor book.  Still, the book ain't bad. 

     The Demon Trapper's Daughter, Oliver (YA)

R++ 3/5

This is a neat book too.  In alternate Atlanta, a group captures demons for a living.  Most demon trappers are men, the main character is a girl.  Definitely YA and fits.  I liked the style (although the author tells way too much) and the story.  What I didn't like is this--if you are going to posit a tale like this, the main character and indeed, the demon catchers need, no must have some defining characteristic that makes them different from everybody else.  The demon trappers are just regular people who generally have some family ties to the business.  It is a guild for goodness sakes.  A person positing a guild not based on a special skill and then telling me how this little girl is not being treated fair just because she is a girl is just silly.  The story is kool, but it doesn't have any legs even a dumb kid can figure out the main character ain't special. 

     Incarceron, Fisher (YA)

R++ 3/5

Kool book.  This is really a neat idea.  A prison where all the criminals are supposed to be taken care of, but it has gone out of control and gained a mind of its own.  This is a very difficult novel to explain--which means it is really complex and good.  The writer is very skillful.  It would have made a better adult novel--the story is kind of dark.  The subjects are pretty touchy too.  Still, it is innocent enough to be YA and still fun.  The author sticks to the point and gives a very creative novel.  It probably doesn't have the power to stand but I liked it and would like to read the sequel.

     Dark Mirror, Putney (YA)

R++ 2/5

I don't write Young Adult novels, but it's good to take a sample every now an then.  This isn't a bad novel.  It's kind of fun, but the author couldn't make up her mind which century she wanted to write in.  The work starts fun, witches and warlocks are considered a bad thing and if you happen to be born with magic as a noble, you are sent to a special school to unmagic you.  Neat idea that the author completely squanders.  I wanted to see the continued dealing and life of Lady Victoria Mansfield, the main character, but instead, the author turned the novel into time travel to WWII.  Cute, I'd like to read the follow-ons, but sha took a potential Harry Potter and made bread.  Oh well.

     The Anti-Communist Manifestos, Flemming

R++ r2/5

This is a very erudite book and not a simple read.  It is very interesting, but it wasn't what I was expecting at all.  I thought I was getting the four books this author discusses, and all that was between the pages was a well written essay about them and their effects.  For that reason alone, this book is worth reading, but I think you should read the four books that are discussed first.

The four books are:

Darkness at Noon

Out of the Night

I Chose Freedom



The author mentions a couple of other books worth reading.  I intend to get these four books and read them.  I also will read some of the other works mentioned by the author.


This work puts into perspective the writings against Communism in the 20th century.  This in itself make it a book worth reading.

     Theras and His Town, Snedeker (kid's book)

++ 3/5

Great kid's book and a required read for any grade school child.  Calvert puts it in the 6th grade curriculum.  Might be above or below that level for very good readers or poor readers.  It is an easy read.

Theras is a boy from Athens (Greece not Georgia).  His adventures teach a good deal of age appropriate information about ancient Greece.  It is a positive adventure story with lots of good historical information.  It does gloss over many Greek issues of the times, but that's okay as long as there is more teaching following.  Actually, any child or adult who read this book would know more about ancient Greece than almost anyone in our society.

Fun book for kids of any age.

     Silencing the Christians, Wildmon

++ 2/5

This is a book worth reading, but it doesn't bring anything new to the argument.  It is a book meant to inform, but only the most deaf don't know what is happening--or those who don't care.  I applaud the author and recommend this book, but it just doesn't resonate with powerful enough arguments or data to give strength to either Christians or the opposition.  The reality is that if the bad guys succeed in silencing any group's view, then we will have fallen into tyranny.  The agenda of those who want to silence Christians will led to their subjugation--this is a point that should resonate in this kind of book, but it doesn't.  In any case, it is a worthwhile read, but it could have been much more powerful.

     Cool It, Lomborg

++ 3/5

From Lomborg you should expect logic and precise analysis.  With Cool It you get just that.  Unfortunately, what you don't get is a lot of data.  Lomborg's original book The Skeptical Environmentalist was full of charts and data--he doesn't give you as much of that in Cool It.  The data would have improved the work significantly for me.  I suspect he was advised to write Cool It just as he did--he should have written it as a scientist rather than a political or social commentator.  In any case, the book it work reading and has great arguments in it.  Another problem with Lomborg himself is he is a believer in andropomorphic global warming.  That doesn't hurt his arguments, but I would rather see some of his brain power used to analyze global warming itself.  He never shied away from controversy before.

In all, this is a good book that is worth the read, but it just isn't as good as his first and seminal work--The Skeptical Environmentalist.

     The Forgotten Man, Shlaes

++ r4/5

Entertaining, easy to enjoy, history written with an ear for reading.  This is a need to read book about the politics of the great depression.  Anyone who complained about this work or its contents could not have read it.  It is a refreshing and clear-eyed look at the people, politics, and personalities around the great depression.  It makes all the major players look bad.  It spares none, but obviously shows the Marxist ideological underpinnings of the progressive views that left the US in a depression for 10 years.  Those who are looking for the cause shouldn't look further.  Those who see similarities today, received the obvious message.  Shlaes is a joy to read and a strong historian.  Everyone should read this book! 

     Slander, Coulter

++ 3/5

Coulter is just fun and fun to read.  Her documentation is great, but not as great as her quick repartee and wonderful turn of phrase.  What is even better is that by in large she is right.  She points out the problem of the naked emperor and asks who made him emperor in the first place.  Well written, biting, up to date, and important for anyone who expects to make decisions about politics in the near future.

     Men in Black, Levin

++ r3/5

This is an adequately written and argued tome.  Levin's points are well made and documented.  This is a much better documented book than Liberty and Tyranny.  Unfortunately, Levin's style is didactic and grating, and that detracts from the otherwise excellent book.  His points are still correct and can be reused and brought into pervasive arguments.  His conclusions are less well focused and thought out.  There is no basis for comparison given to assure us that the solutions he provides will possibly result in the fixes he prescribes.

Still, Levin's arguments that the courts and the supreme court are destroying the USA are accurate and well grounded.  He suggests more turnover among the justices.  The problem with this is that it will politicize the courts more.  Greater turnover was the technique FDR used to give us the socialized programs of the New Deal.  The only hope we have is the election of conservative lawmakers who will put originalists on the court.  Without the power of lawmakers behind it, the court cannot be changed.  This is truly unfortunate, but true. 

This is a better book than Liberty and Tyranny and worth reading and putting in your permanent library.      


     Liberty and Tyranny, Levin

++ r2/5

First the positive.  This is a great book especially for the times.  This book defines conservatism well.  The most helpful part is a conservative manifesto listed by subject area.  Unfortunately, the manifesto is not really a manifesto, and this is an indicator of the structural problems with the writing.  Although the book is a good one and worth reading, it is not a very well written, researched, nor a definitive tome.  Levin doesn't know how to write a scholarly work.  The work will not convince anyone who doesn't already agree with the basic premise.  Levin's writing is very much like his speaking--he doesn't converse, he speaks to you.  His writing doesn't convince or converse, it tells you what he thinks about the subject.  I agree with him 100 percent, and if you are already a conservative, you will agree too.  Your understanding of the subject will increase, but unlike a great writer or scholar, you really won't be able to use the arguments much to further the cause. 

Still, this is a great reference book--everyone should read it and own it.      


     New Deal or Raw Deal, Folsom

+++ r4/5

FDR's Folly is the best book written about the tragedy of the "New Deal" and the economic tsunami we are still grappling with as a result.  This new book by Folsom explores a new avenue from most writing about the Great Depression--instead of looking purely at the economic issues and programs it looks at the political dimensions of the economics and politicians.  In this book, we learn from FDR's own quotes that he used the Great Depression and the New Deal programs to influence politics and keep his own party in office.  We find that the prolonging of the depression was solely to keep one party in power.  Didn't you every wonder why the US depression was still ongoing while Europe had recovered almost five years prior? Now you can know.

This is a great reference book--everyone should read it and own it.      

     Economic Facts and Fallacies, Sowell

++ r3/5

This is another fantastic book from Thomas Sowell.  It is a quick and easy read with a lot of excellent information and examples.  The basis of the work is to put a face of reason on economic thinking.  It is a book with new information compared to Basic Economics.  Basic Economics give details of economic theory and information.  Facts and Fallacies shows how lack of economic understanding fuels false ideas and policies. 

This is a great reference book--everyone should read it and own it.      

     The Lightning Thief, Riordan

     The Sea of Monsters

     The Titan's Curse

     The Battle of the Labyrinth

     The Last Olympian

+++ 3/5

These are great kids books.  Middle school to high school level, but adults will like them too.  They are very witty and well written.  They are action oriented and generally logically put together.  The info about Greek Myth is a bonus.  The characters are compelling and well drawn.  The conflicts are cliffhangers and generally well resolved. 

The point of the novels is that the Greek gods are still around and their children are all over.  Monsters of the most dangerous ancient mythical type try to kill these children least they become heroes and defeat them.  Percy is a child of a god and is helped to the special summer camp for the sons and daughters of the gods.  The rest of the story is the exciting adventures of Percy as he learns about his powers, defeats monsters, and solves the problems of the gods.  He even gets a girlfriend in the process.

These are fun books.          

     Saving the Queen, Buckley

++ 2/5

Buckley has some of the covert details right, but he doesn't understand the mystique of the business.  Coverts do not bar crawl for entertainment and certainly don't visit prostitutes.  The risk involved for both blackmail and revealing yourself are just too great.  The best coverts are not stunning in appearance; they are nondescript.  Their jobs are not the seduction of queens but the infiltration of place and groups.  Perhaps Buckley got this part right. 

In general, the book is fun to read and exciting.  The play of Soviet and Free World is correctly done.  The approach to the covert world is close.  The Greyburn School thing is way overblown.  Buckley must have had his bottom tanned at a British School, and he was trying to live it down.  All in all not a bag book, but not the most mature of Buckley's writing.         

     Eusebius, Maier

++ r3/5

Excellent resource.  Well done documented and translated version of Eusebius' History of the Church.  The beginning is tedious, but not due to the translator.  The book quickly gets into the details and the documentation is excellent.  Necessary addition to any library of early literature and the Church.      

     Starship Troopers, Heinlein

+++ 5/5

Seminal novel of war in interplanetary space, but so much more.  The concepts described by Heinlein are politically beautiful and revolutionary.  His view of the world is philosophic and powerful.  The ideas are timeless and the colors are bright--it is too bad they made such a crappy movie about this wonderful book.

Johnny Rico signs up for the Mobile Infantry just before interplanetary war breaks out.  We see his development from an uncaring youth to an officer among loss and battle.  The world of the future is not kind to the Mobile Infantry, but they are necessary, and they wear armored suits.  Early science fiction with a real science punch.

Fantastic novel, fantastic read!     

     Henri Tod, Buckley

+++ 2/5

I like Buckley.  I like his subject matter and his approach.  I think his writing is poor.  Don't get me wrong, he writes well enough, but his style is out of date and causes the novel to crawl.  He uses a narrative style that tells rather than shows and that significantly detracts from the strength of his writing.  The story and theme are otherwise fantastic.

Henri Tod is the story of what happened during the Berlin crisis.  If you ever wondered why JFK was such a terrible president, look no further.  JFK coddled our enemies and betrayed our friends.  The Bay of Pigs, Berlin Wall, and Cuban Missile Crises should have told you that already.  Henri Tod, head of the unofficial West German partisans, was betrayed.  I don't like Blackford Oaks as a character; the CIA agent in the book.  His profile is too high although his persona is about right.  He is a Bond type character, but Buckley either didn't realize or just didn't want to make a real clandestine agent.  The book is good and a fun read.  The event of "The Wall" was properly honored and recorded.      

     Cranford, Gaskell

+++ 4/5

I like Gaskell's writing and I plan to read the rest of her works.  She is definitely an excellent author.  Her style is short story novel technique.  Her writing is easy to read and well put together.  The novel was published in 1853, and Gaskell was a contemporary of Dickens.  The novel is the period's typical narrative style--Gaskell is fantastic in this style.

The novel is difficult to simply explain or synopsize.  It is a tightly bound group of short stories in chapter form.  The basic theme is the comfortable and not so comfortable life of the unmarried cloister of ladies at Cranford.  Many feminists completely misconstrue this novel to be a diatribe against men, that is sad.  That approach typically turns men away from the novel, and continues a falsehood about Victorian society and the people who lived in it.  Cranford is a celebration of the misandry of the Victorian old maid who longs for men as fathers, husbands, and brothers, but who, for personal and cultural reasons rejects the close association of them.  Gaskell shows just how foolish and harmful this misandry is.  The denouncement and end of the novel is not surprising the fall of a major character due to not trusting her brother and not marrying her love because of her sister's misandry.  She is saved by the return of her brother, the help of a male relative, the marriage of her maid, and the support of her friends.  Gaskell was not a slave to her culture and society--she understood it well and tells us about its strengths and weaknesses.

This is a beautiful novel.      

     Guilty, Coulter

+++ 3/5

Fantastic resource!  Ann delves into victimology with her usual entertaining sarcasm.  The writing is beautiful, the sarcasm and wit penetrating.  Ann Coulter is probably the best satirist since Swift.  She should be the US poet laurite.    

     The Story of a Bad Boy, Aldrich

+++ 2/5

Classic story of a boy growing in America.  Worth reading, but not the autobiography it is stated to be.  There are too many plot devices and themes developed within to be pure history.  It is also written in a classic pre-Civil War style.  Still the work is an easy and fun read--recommended for all kids.     

     Showboat World, Vance

+++ 3/5

Great and typical Vance.  Always worth reading.  This is a well developed novel with a strong Vance mix of fantasy and SiFi.  Well done and fun to read.

Showboats are the chief entertainment on the Vissel River of Big Planet.  When a king invites the best of the showboats to present their entertainments at his festival, Appollon Zamp, determines to win the prize.  Unfortunately, Zamp loses his boat and his crew on the way, yet a blond beauty, who resists his every appeal, insists on Zamp's continuing to the competition.         

     Space Cadet, Heinlein

+++ 3/5

In the same line as Starman Jones.  New world concept and early intrasystem space travel is the focus.  Plot and theme are well rounded, but the system concept is fantastic and dated.  The work is early Heinlein.

In a future system controlled by the Patrol, a young man wants to join and succeed in training.  Great depictions of intraplanetary travel.         

     Have Space Suit-Will Travel, Heinlein

+++ 4/5

Next to the 5/5, Starship Troopers, this may be Heinlein's best early novel.  The story is very interesting, but the appeal is the characters.  The novel would be a 5/5 except the theme is too unusual.  The plot is otherwise great.  Very good read and well done.

A young man wants to go to the moon and wins a surplus space suit.  He reconditions and outfits the suit and gets caught up in interplanetary hijinks.  The ten year old girl character is especially captivating.  Likely the best description of pressure suits written in a novel.           

     Starman Jones, Heinlein

+++ 3/5

A fun book.  It is an early Heinlein and a little overwrought.  The concepts are slightly dated, but the ideas are great.  Worth reading.  One of my favorites as a youth.      

Story follows a young man in a futuristic guild system.  He wants to be an astrogator like his uncle.  Spaceflight is well depicted.  

     What's so Great about Christianity, D'Souza

+++ 4/5

Fantastic resource!  You won't find a better modern book looking into philosophy and theology with this detail.  Excellent defense of Christianity.  Covers most of the modern issues from a philosophical background.  Does not take enough time with the legal-historical, but great approach from scientific and logic.  Worth having in every library.         

     Inferno, Niven and Pournell

+++ 5/5

This is a book everyone should read.  The novel is very different and unconventional--it is everything I seek to achieve with a novel.  It has some issues, but in general, it is aging well.  I have read it many times. 

What happens when a modern man wakes up in a real hell.  Follows Dante and asks some very good questions about God and man.         

     Heidi's Children, Tritten

++ 2/5

Spyri is a better storyteller and author.  Tritten was her translator.  The books are good but miss some quality that Spyri could engender in the writing.  It may be the feel of hardbitten poverty in Spyri has been overcome by the new world of the industrial revolution where most have some.

Follows Heidi and her children including her special child Marta, the sister of a friend Jamy.  Good read for kids and great for values literature.   

     Heidi Grows Up, Tritten

++ 2/5

Heidi's special endearment to others becomes her means of success.  From her point of view and doesn't do justice to the character.  Still a good book for kids and good values literature.

     The Elegance of the Hedgehog

++ 4/5

Very good book and difficult to describe why it is not 5/5.  Specifically, to be a 5/5, the work must be entertaining with no extraneous parts.  This book is a great read and I recommend it.  It has fantastic emotional appeal and is very nicely crafted, but it is missing a certain reality and convincing strength--I think that may be because it is French and the cultural puzzles are not those of the Western mind anymore.  The question of the work is one of meaning, but the author looks into the abyss and finds no answer.  The work is a tragedy with all pity and fear and no recognition of the who that makes the universe and emotions possible.  That is why this work is not great literature and why it misses the mark.  The untold strivings of humanity can't be answered with a simple--we are here for everyone else.  The novel is worth reading and contemplating, but ultimately it is as futile as the question it asks, but the author can't answer.      

     Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell

+++ 3/5

This is a fantastic book that should be in everyone's library.  My rating is low according to my scale because, though well written, it is not the level of classical literature.  It is an easy book to understand and read.  This book is like the best college or school textbook.  Everyone should read and study this book.  Any politician who hasn't or who needs help with economics must read this book.  I suggest it as a litmus test for any politician--since Thomas Sowell is black, any politician who hasn't read and studied this book must be racist.  Get this book and read it.  If you don't understand it, read it again--if you disagree with anything in it, you are likely a Marxist.  I'm not kidding.   

     Ever, Levine

+ 2/5

This book requires some deep thought, but not because of its quality or story.  This book is for kids and a very loose knock off of the Judges account of the daughter of Jephthah, whose father had to sacrifice her--he vowed to sacrifice the first thing he saw following his battle.  It is written in first person (yuck) with countering short chapters (interesting).  The problem is the two main characters are almost the same--there is little differentiation.  The thematic issue has to do with the solution to the problem of the character Kezi, who is to be sacrificed and Olus the wind god who befriends her.  The solution is that Kezi must become immortal.  Oh boy tell me a new thematic idea there--everyone wants to become immortal--kind of.  That is a well used and ancient theme--this book doesn't improve on it.  A great theme would be the god Olus achieving mortality for the love of Kezi--or being sacrificed in her place.  That is a theme you can sink your teeth into.  I liked Elle.  I don't like the books quite as much.   

     From Stalingrad to Pillau (primary source Russian)

+ 1-2/5

If you are looking for good primary source writing--it's not here.  The author doesn't have enough skill in even gossip to keep the account interesting.  With good editing this book could have been stronger, but I think the basic problem is the author was unwilling to give an unflattering account of the Soviet Army or Soviet society.  He couldn't see the corruption or the basic lack of values right in front of him.  If he had had an experience of an uncorrupt army or society, he might have been able to see the difference that makes.  When you are still in the middle rationing years after the final battle, you should know your government is misusing the funds, and when lend lease equipment is the only thing that works well--well?  Not worth reading; there are much better accounts out there.

     Greek Religion, Burkert

+++ 3/5

This is a reasonable account of Greek religion.  I recommend it for reference, but Burkert is really not well organized in his thinking or his depictions of Greek religious practice to make this a fantastic book in this regard.  If you want some very deep details in a strongly documented history, this is for you.

     The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Levine (Kid's book)

+ 2/5

Levine is kind of going down hill.  This is better than Fairest.  The work has some redeeming characteristics.  The character of the Dragon is well developed and the scenes are fun.  Some of the means of escaping enemies are well done--some could have been done better.  The end was pretty predictable and overwrought.  The love story was predictable and too cutesy.  For kids, the book might be interesting, but then I think of Heidi, the best children's book ever written and I think--nah.  Levine would do better by spending longer on the books and getting some editing help.  Poetic help would be a great idea too.

     Fairest, Levine (Kid's book okay read)

++ 2/5

Levine has a way of getting on your nerves.  She says she doesn't write with an outline--she should.  The work is interesting and a different retelling of Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, but the songs are terrible.  Ms. Levine thinks she is a poet--she is barely a writer.  The book would be much improved without the "songs."  And the work would be much improved without the deus ex. 

     Elle Enchanted, Levine (Great for kids)

++ 3/5

Great story potential, fun book to read.  Could have been fantastic.  The author sets up a beautiful and strong potential in the development of the book, unfortunately it all flies apart in the final scenes.  The end is no where near the expectation set up in the narrative.  Still it is worth reading and fun for kids. 

     The Spiderwick Chronicles (Great for kids)

++ 3/5

This is a fun set of 5 books and a great read.  The pictures are very nice.  The movie is poop, but the book is cleaver and readable.

     Chariot, Arthur Cotterell (New history, very good)

+++ 3/5

This is a very good read and a great piece of history.  It covers the military use of the chariot in history.  The obvious theme is the advent and growth of the chariot followed by its eventual demise.  This work is filled with some very good new information and ideas.  It is well work the read if you are interested in the history of warfare and civilization.

     Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury (Best Novel in English)

+++ 5/5

Rereading just confirms for me again that this is the best novel written in the English language.  There is no doubt in my mind, but I am willing to take other suggestions and debate them.  The novel is both timeless and locked in a time and place.  The revelations are pointed, specific to the characters and true for every human who ever walked the face of the globe.  The writing is Shakespearian.  The subject is humankind.  The balanced precision of the language is perfection.  The work is absolutely readable and entertaining.  And this is the key point, the writing is readable and rereadable.  This is the work that should be in your library and your mind.  Everyone should take the trip to Greentown Illinois and meet Doug, his brother Tom, Col Freeleigh, Grandfather, and all the other "real" people who populated this place.  

     All Theology is Christology

++ 2/5

This is a very good collection of essays on Christology ruined by its title.  Of course all theology is not Christology.  Even for a Christian to make this assertion is a heresy.  God the Father begat God the Son, so God Himself asserts that all theology starts with God, not with Christ.  The problem with the title is it does not encourage other religions or even other groups in Christianity to explore the contents and that is a true loss.  The essays are by no means the end of the story on each of their subjects, but they are succinct and generally clear.  They are varied enough and well enough written that the reader wants more, and that is the best you can ask from a collection of essays. 

     The Amber Spyglass

+ 1/5

Again the not so subtle amber spyglass in which the children Lyra and Will break every Torah Mitzvah they possibly can.  God the almighty is dead (he becomes dead with the help of the children).  With their help, the dead are released from God's eternal bondage to oblivion.  An ex-nun who first experienced true life through sex becomes the encouragement for the children to fall in love (and to have sex, implied).  So here we have such great encouragement from the "happy atheist:" God is dead, death is oblivion, no one created, good and evil are in the eyes of the beholder, religion keeps people from the truth, sex is love, love is sex, and hope is?  Just where did this author get his education?  Please don't send your children there.  This book is filled with gratuitous violence, but it is more interesting than the first two.  It is more interesting until near the end and the author begins to moralize and explain everything through his characters, just in case you didn't get it.  The value in these books is evident in their movie experience DOA.  The anti-God, anti-Christian message is so blatant and so bitter in book two and three, there is no way, except for propaganda they could be made into movies.  As a contrast, Narnia gave a message of God and hope to millions--this book told us the universe is only by chance and ruled by evil.  Your choice.

     Masque World, Alexei Panshin

+++ 5/5

I'm not sure which of these three books is the best or perhaps the promised 4th book, the one that never materialized, is the best of the litter--can't say no one except maybe Panshin has read it.  They are all 5/5 in my ratings.  Masque World presents such a well controlled farce it is almost impossible to put down.  Today, when too many books and writers take themselves too seriously, a book of extreme quality with both a message and a great story especially one as poignant as this one, should be welcomed just because it is fun and readable.  Fun and readable means the author is getting his points across.  We need many more books like this one.           

     The Thurb Revolution, Alexei Panshin  

+++ 5/5

Sometimes the story is immaterial but still a precious part of a work.  The Turb Revolution is a novel about much more than a simple camping trip to a planet close to the Tanner Trust.  Incredible piece of literature, fun read, extraordinary characters--especially Plonk the pink cloud.        

     Starwell, Alexei Panshin (A fantastic book)

+++ 5/5

The adventures of Anthony Villiers and Torve the Trog are the stuff of legend.  This is as fine a novel as has perhaps ever been written in the genre of science fiction and perhaps in modern fiction.  This book is a treat with well drawn characters and events, spiced throughout with much deeper insights on human culture and thought.  It is well worth a read and reread.  The story is immaterial to the book itself and though entertaining is simply the frosting on a compelling novel of great complexity and proportion.      

     Rite of Passage, Alexei Panshin (One of my favorites)

++ 3/5

Alexei Panshin is another writer who gave us about 4 incredible books prior to dropping out of sight.  The earliest I read is Rite of Passage.  It starts with a typical 1960's premise: in the future, man destroys the world in nuclear war and a few escape to colonize the universe.  In this future, the 8 ships that conveyed the colonists retain the technology and trade bits of technology for the goods and materials they need.  The rite of passage to adulthood on the ships is a test of survival on a wild colonial planet for a month.  It happens when you turn 14.  The main character is Mia, a girl whose changing mind, body, and understanding of her world culminates with her rite of passage.  This is a novel that is still immature, but shows the future strength that Panshin would evidence in the Anthony Viellers novels.  It is a book for adults and older teens.  It is not a book for children.    

     Lord Darcy, Randell Garrett, (Another one of my favorites.) 

++ 3/5

Randell Garrett was one of the first alternative world writers.  He developed a parallel universe that branched off with Richard the Lion Heart.  Richard survived, and the British world was ruled by a strong English king whose dynasty still sat on the throne in 1970.  In this universe, magic works and is a large part of the society.  In Garrett's world, magic is controlled and defined, and part of the fun of the reading is the revelation of this magic and its rules.  Lord Darcy is a Sherlock Holms character whose Dr. Watson is a short, wide, Irish forensic magician.  Lord Darcy is the chief investigator for Duke Richard and investigates crimes against the nobility.  Great mysteries, good writing, fun stories.  It is really too bad Garrett had a debilitating accident after these books came out.

     Dragonsinger, Anna McCaffrey, (If you like Dragonsong, Dragonsinger is more of the same.)

+++ 4/5

Dragonsinger is the continuation of Dragonsong.  This is a book that should be made into a movie.  The story is fantastic and an outstanding read.  Menolly finally makes it to the Harper Hall.  There she confronts her future and her skills.  Fun book, great read--great to reread.  The follow-on to Dragonsinger is Dragondrums, but it sucks with a capital S.  Not sure what happened to Anna on the last one, but she missed a fantastic opportunity to continue to entertain us.  Dragondrums is not appropriate for children--you can let your children read the first two books without a problem, but you will not want them to read the last until they are about 17.

     Dragonsong, Anna McCaffrey, (This is a must read--great fun for everyone.)

+++ 4/5

Dragonsong is a fantastic book for anyone who enjoys or doesn't enjoy fantasy and science fiction.  Menolly is the youngest daughter of Yanus, Seaholder of Half Circle Sea Hold on the world of Pern.  Pern is the world of the Dragonriders; a medieval level world that is dependent on the "Dragons" that were long ago created by Pern's colonists to protect the planet from an interplanetary parasite called "thread."  The back-story for the entire series is very imaginative.  Menolly's problem is that she is an incredible musician in a world that doesn't yet accept women as musicians--but Pern is in change.  She was trained by the sea hold's harper and she writes new music--new music that is so good, the harpers are looking everywhere for her.  Before the sea hold's harper died, he neglected to inform the masterharper that Menolly was a girl.  Menolly's father and mother punished her for writing her own music--music that others might mistake for harper approved ballads, and Menolly runs away to live outside any hold.

This is a must read book and should be made into a movie.  Teens and adults will love it.         

     Tuf Voyaging, George R.R. Martin (couldn't resist, I've read this book many times before--it is a fantastic piece of SiFi.)

+++ 4/5

An unusual space trader comes into control of an Earth Ecological Corps seed-ship.  With it comes truly god-like powers.  The story from beginning to end is exciting, engrossing, and fantastic.  The only problem with this book is that there is no sequel and at about 400 pages it is too short.  Martin is a great author and storyteller.  The ideas are timely and the philosophy is well developed.  The only reason I didn't give this book a 5/5 is that it deals with a subject that is slightly dated at this point.  That doesn't really reduce the timeliness of the writing or the argument, but does reduce the overall utility from the standpoint of a classic.  The book really needs a sequel or an expansion.  Since Martin is clearly a short story or novella style author more than a pure novelist this should not be difficult at all.     

     The Subtle Knife

+ 1/5

This work is mistitled:  it should be called the not so subtle knife.  The main problem for most sentient adults should be why is a grown man writing an adult themed novel with children as the main characters.  I consider this a gross example of literary pedophilia.  Pullman brilliantly has his characters break every Biblical commandment one by one.  Generally, it is children who are breaking the commandments.  Pullman isn't happy with just breaking the big 10, he adds each of the detailed laws in the Torah.  The children murder, they maim others, they disobey their parents, they steal (a whole world is set up for children to steal), they predict the future, and aid in making spells.  One of the main characters, Will, a child, is set up as a priest with a knife that cuts between worlds, who is maimed in the process of taking the knife from another.  This is also the boy who murders--justified of course.  The basic theme of the novel is that Lyra's father (the girl and a main character) is preparing to battle the Creator of the universe in a parallel to the original fight between the Devil and God.  This means her father Lord Asreil is an analogue to Satan.  In the first book, this man murdered a child to break the way between the worlds.  Lord Asreil is bringing together all the Angels, creatures, witches, etc. from all the worlds to fight against the Creator.  The astounding thing is that anyone can stomach these books.  Surely children who are the major targets of them can't read them or would not want to read them.  They are barely palatable for an adult.

     The First Catechumenal by St Augustine

+ 2/5

This was one of my Christmas books.  It is short sweet and informative, but mostly from a historical point of view.  St Augustine is truly working with timely topics: how to maintain the catechumen's (trainee's) interest and how to train.  In this way the work is timeless.  Additionally, the historical clues in the text are interesting.  I like St Augustine's other works much better, but I really was glad to add this to my library and knowledge.     


     The Golden Compass

+ 1/5

I debated whether to give The Golden Compass a 0/5 or a 1/5 rating.  I will definitely not reread the book, and there is only one compelling point that is made in the whole work.  It is not a literary work.  It is poorly written with forgettable and illogical characters.  The best drawn and most interesting character is the bear.  Deus ex Machina fill the story so the fact that it is written by a proselyzing atheist is obviously undercut by the constant miracles that drive it.  The violence, unpleasant situations, and graphic descriptions ensure The Golden Compass is not a child's book.   I would not recommend it for anyone under 16.  The book is an adult book with children as the main characters--the perversion and point in this model should be obvious.


     The 5 Demon Prince Novels, Jack Vance

++ 4/5

The Demon Prince Novels are a true work of art.  They are rereadable and highly entertaining.  They are adult novels with adult themes, but they are not vulgar or needlessly graphic.  They represent perhaps the highest level of Jack Vance's writing in the area of Science Fiction and are likely a classic in any genre of literature.  The main character is a true Romantic creation of near perfect definition--creative, intelligent, sensitive, unexpectedly powerful.  The worlds of Vance are incredibly imaginative and real.  The people that populate his novels are real and unique and no one wins an argument.  They should be read in order--the first time.  The five novels are:

     The Star King - The initial book introduces Kirth Gersen, a man seeking vengeance for the lives of his family.  When Kirth was a child, a cabal of five space criminals, the demon princes, murdered and enslaved his family.  His grandfather made him an instrument of vengeance.  Kirth seeks out the first of the demon princes--Attel Malagate, the Malagate of Woe. 

     The Killing Machine - Kirth Gersen seeks out Kokor Hekkus the second of the demon princes and more a myth than a real man.  Kokor Hekkus lives on a world lost eons ago and thought but fancy.  Kirth meets the most beautiful woman in the universe, or at least the value of her beauty is the greatest known.

     The Palace of Love - Viola Falushe a demon prince driven by desire and pleasure, yet unable to find either.  Kirth enlists Navareth the poet and Zan Zu from Eridu, Viola Falushe's desire to find and eliminate him.

     The Face - Lens Larque, ugly, unidentified, arrogant, from a vicious culture tests Kirth's intelligence and resolve.  The craftiness of hunter and hunted is fascinating, but who is hunting whom. 

     The Book of Dreams - Howard Alan Treesong was trying to take over the control of organizations that ran human space.  Only Kirth Gersen understands what Treesong is trying to do and only Kirth can stop him.


     Julian's Against the Galileans

+ 2/5

     Porphyry's Against the Christians

+ 3/5


+ 3/5

     The Skeptical Environmentalist

++ 5/5

     If Democrats had Brains They'd be Republicans, Coulter

+ 2/5


++ 3/5



     0/5 Not worth the time or the money


     1/5 Reasonable read, literary issues, would not reread, will not reference


     2/5 Good read, good book, would not reread, would reference


     3/5 Great read, good book, not literature, might reread, will reference


     4/5 Fantastic read, great book, approaching literature, will reread/reference


     5/5 Incredible read, fantastic book, timely or literature, will reread/reference




     R - Reading


     N - Not reading yet


     + - Interesting


     ++ - Very interesting


     +++ - Can't put it down


     - - Not interesting


     -- - Very not interesting



L.D. Alford Aviation Writing Technical Writing Unpublished Novels Writing Links Engineer


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