Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stranger in Paradise - Robert B. Parker

Stranger in Paradise is a new Jesse Stone novel. Crow, one of the villains from Trouble in Paradise, is back for this novel. Crow was the only bad guy to escape from the Stiles Island incident, and he escaped with a boat full of money. The question is what does Crow want in Paradise this time. He's searching for someone and Paradise seems like a good place to look. When he walks into the station and checks in with Jesse things start to happen. Very highly recommended.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What NOT to do over Thanksgiving

My first big mistake was agreeing to play football, shortly after eating Thanksgiving dinner, with five people, all at least 15 years younger than me. The game was three on a side, with one son-in-law (Indianapolis policeman), one nephew-in-law (college student), one grandson 9, one grandnephew 12, and the neighbor kid 11. The neighbor kid was the vicious one. I still have his footprints on my sweatshirt! Mostly I have sore muscles from head to toe. Yes head! I must have muscles in my head because I agreed to play.

My second mistake was agreeing to take a couple of my grandkids bowling the next day. The first frame I fell flat on my face when my knees gave out. I didn't get a gutter ball, but only because they had bumpers in the lane for my grandkids. Yes, for my grandkids! I managed to stumble through three games but I barely topped 100 each game. Thankfully I beat one of my grandkids, but I feel a little guilty making a nine year old play with a 16 pound ball. Just a little though. He was on the other team the day before.

So I'm home and I'm sore and if I never see a football or a bowling ball again I'll die happy. At least until next Thanksgiving.

Just After Sunset - Stephen King

Just After Sunset is a collection of 13 short stories. An appropriate number for Stephen King. It's been a long time since King came out with a collection of short stories and it was worth the wait. I'm particularly drawn to short stories. They can be as compelling as full length novels, but I can usually get to sleep before my alarm goes off in the morning.

King is one of those story tellers who never lets you know how it's going to end. There are some authors you can count on for a happy ending, no matter how grim their tales get in the middle. Sometimes I like that and sometimes I don't. King can kill off the whole cast and leave a monster waiting around for the next innocent to stroll within reach. You never know. Some of these stories end happy and some just end. They're all excellent.

My personal favorite was Stationary Bike. I now have a better excuse not to ride mine :) Close behind were The Cat from Hell, A Very Tight Place, and The Things They Left Behind. Very highly recommended.

Divergence - Charles Sheffield

Divergence is the second book in the Heritage Universe series. This story takes off where Summertide ended. I recommend you read Summertide first. The same cast of characters make their appearance, but there's a new protagonist E.C. Tally. Tally is a computer housed in a tank grown human body. It's an interesting concept and one that presents some humorous and insightful looks at human nature. The villains, Louis Nenda and Atvar H'sial, are still villains, but they help the rest of the group when they encounter some long lost Zardalu. The Zardalu are the most feared race in the spiral arm, but they were thought to be extinct for over 11 thousand years. This is a book that keeps your interest and provides plenty of surprises. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vista pain - UAC

Vista introduced a whole new level of nanny prompts to the Microsoft Windows experience. It's bad enough that when you delete a file it asks you if you're sure you want to delete it. Vista's User Account Control (UAC) has decided that users should be asked if they're sure about lots of things. If you consider yourself to be moderately computer savvy, and you want to turn off these annoying little windows, you can disable UAC.

Get into the Control Panel and into User Accounts. Then look at the last choice for making changes to your account. It says "Turn User Account Control on or off." This is the good stuff. Click on this choice and uncheck the box next to "Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer." It's only protecting you from yourself. When you click OK you'll have to restart your computer, but you won't have to see those irritating "Windows needs your permission to continue" prompts any longer.

If you're not sure how to get into the Control Panel and into User Accounts maybe you do need to be protected from yourself. Wait until you figure out those steps before you start working without a net.

Installing Software - Why Ask?

I've been migrating to a new PC lately. My old XP machine was slowly shedding function. First the sound card, then some USB ports, then some software stopped working. This time I decided not to wait until I had to run to the store and make an emergency buy to replace a dead box. I bought a refurbished machine and started moving the applications I use on a daily basis to the new box. I don't have the energy to write about the joys of moving to Vista but maybe someday.

That brings me to my point. I've been installing a lot of software lately and it's occurred to me that I've wasted quite a bit of my time dealing with lawyers. Every time a piece of software asks me "do you accept this license" it's because some lawyer somewhere put the fear of God and lawsuits into the purveyor of that particular package.

How stupid is that question? I bought the software. I paid good money for the functionality I want. If I say no to the question it won't install. Why on earth would anyone say no? But the install script asks anyway because some lawyer, or a whole flock of them (note vultures form flocks), decided it was a good CYA move to ask the question. Did you ever consider how much better our world would be without lawyers?

Lawyers are like condoms. Nobody really likes or wants them. They make things more complicated and less fun. Unfortunately, these days you better have one or you could leave yourself open to all kinds of problems. Ironically it's other lawyers who usually cause those problems. You like a conspiracy? Think about that for a while.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cross Country - James Patterson

Cross Country is the latest Alex Cross novel. Patterson provides the same easy reading style and stay-up-late suspense as all his novels. This story has detective Cross on the trail of an African gang leader named Tiger. Cross follows Tiger all the way to the African continent and runs into more trouble than he could have imagined. Highly recommended.

One caveat. Patterson goes preachy in this one. That doesn't mean the topic doesn't deserve to be raised, but novels are not the place to do it. Write an exposé or an op-ed piece for a national magazine. Please let novels be about the characters and the plot. Not the current cause of the day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Night Crew - John Sandford

The Night Crew is about a freelance video crew. They spend the night hours cruising the LA area for news stories they can sell to local stations and networks. One evening they film an animal rights protest and a teenage suicide jumper. That seems to start a series of murders that are tied Anna, the head of the crew. This is a tight suspenseful story. There's plenty of action and some interesting twists.

Sandford is an amazing author who always manages to add extra dimensions to his characters that draw the readers in and make them care about the people in his novels. This book is no exception. Very highly recommended.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Extreme Measures - Vince Flynn

Extreme Measures is another Mitch Rapp novel. This is a book you can't put down. Terrorists are finally back in the USA and the CIA is swimming upstream against politicians and their bureaucracy to track it down. It's a close race. Not everyone makes it to the end. Very highly recommended.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summertide - Charles Sheffield

Summertide is the first in a sequence of books called the Heritage Universe Series. Summertide is a hard science fiction novel. It takes place over 4,000 years in the future in the Dobelle system. The Dobelle is unique in the known universe. Every year there's a convergence of planets and suns called Summertide that unleashes some tremendous forces on all the planetary bodies in the system. Once every 350,000 years all the plants and suns in the system linup just right to create phenomenal tides that will be devastating to the only life bearing planets in the Dobelle system, Quake and Opal. In this story surviving Summertide is the challenge. Finding out why the mysterious Builders seem to be so focused on the convergence appears to have engaged all the known intelligent races, making that survival even more difficult. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Divine Justice - David Baldacci

Divine Justice is another Camel Club novel. This book picks up where Stone Cold left off. Don't even bother to read Divine Justice without reading the other books in this series. It's well worth the time, and won't be any effort if you like a well crafted mystery. In this story Stone is working to elude the government after the events of Stone Cold. The Camel Club almost breaks up in the aftermath. While running from the CIA Stone finds himself in a dangerous situation in a small town that's not what it seems. Very highly recommended.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rough Weather - Robert B. Parker

Rough Weather is a Spencer novel. I really like Parker's writing style. He's like Patterson. They both write tight concise stories that don't drift off point and are usually single threaded. They like short chapters that keep you interested and make you want to read just one more page or one more section. This novel brings back the Gray Man. He and Spencer face off in an interesting struggle that's a mystery right up to the end. Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dark of the Moon - John Sandford

Dark of the Moon is a detective mystery involving the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but this time the focus of the story is Virgil Flowers instead of Lucas Davenport. Virgil has made appearances in earlier Prey series novels, but not as the main character. Now he's the main investigator on a series of murders in a small Minnesota town that quickly become more complicated than they first appeared.

I eat lunch down at the diner several days a week, and read while I'm munching on my fries and sandwich. There's one stretch in this story where the waitress stopped by and asked me if I was going to eat or not. I was so engrossed I couldn't take the time to dip a fry in ketchup and pop it in my mouth. This novel is that good. Lots of stories keep me awake at night but few can distract me from a plate of fries :) Very highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thirteen - Richard Morgan

Thirteen is a novel about the not too distant future when Mars is past the initial stages of colonization and America has splintered into Rim states and Jesusland. Sounds almost prophetic after last night. In this twisted future there are Thirteens. They're genetically engineered human throwbacks to pre-agricultural society when the survival of humans depended on aggression and individualism. Thirteens were designed to give humanity the edge they needed to win wars and escape the general feminization of society. This story is excellent. It was very hard to put down. I'm hoping for a sequel. Very highly recommended.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Mile High Club - Kinky Friedman

The Mile High Club was interesting for the first couple of chapters, strictly from the perspective of trying to figure out if the author was actually attempting to write a serious novel or just playing with alliteration. It's a book about an ex-country singer turned private eye who is full of himself, written by an author who is even fuller of himself. It took determination to finish this farce and way too much of my time. Don't bother. Not recommended at all.