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BOOK REVIEWS


Mario Vargas Llosa - Who Killed Palomino Molero? (1998) " In Peru during the 50's, a young Air Force cadet is found murdered and mutilated. The half-breed cadet, Palomino Molero, was draft-exempt yet joined the military anyway. Why? For love, it seems--love for the colonel's daughter, a love that for a number of reasons (race, class rank) cannot be. But is it reason for slaughter? It falls to two absolutely hapless hick Civil Guards--Officer Lituma (the narrator) and Lieutenant Silva--to investigate the case, and it's on their wheels that the fun zooms. Silva is lust-crazy for a particular local (quite hefty) married woman, and spends most of his time thinking, talking, and dreaming of her. Meanwhile, he "interrogates" various witnesses and suspects in the cadet's murder, getting them to answer questions he never asks, to make connections he's too sex-woozy to have formulated. Through it all, though, Lituma is convinced that Silva is another Sherlock Holmes. "     ~ kirkusreviews.com and Amazon Books


OTHER BOOK REVIEWS -


James Barret – Our Final Invention (2013) "Computers already perform essential tasks in our national infrastructure and daily lives, including several beyond the capacity of the smartest individual—e.g., playing chess or competing against humans on Jeopardy. While dazzling, these accomplishments are too specialized for the artificial intelligence the author and the many philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs he interviews have in mind. Within decades, computers will operate at the speed of a human brain and become rational, allowing them to learn, rewrite their own programs to learn better, solve problems better, make decisions and perhaps create more computers like themselves. Having reached this level, they have achieved artificial general intelligence. Inevitably, working on their own without human input, they will exceed human intelligence by factors of 100 and eventually thousands, achieving artificial superintelligence. "     ~ KirkusReviews.org and Amazon Books


Tom Rob Smith - Agent 6 (2012) "Agent 6 is the third in Tom Rob Smith's trilogy about a former MGB agent, Leo Demidov. It opens with a flashback to the younger Leo in 1950, a committed secret policeman of 27 who has just discovered the of a young artist. Polina Peshkova has committed no crime beyond wanting to keep for herself some private space, but like millions of others in the Soviet Union, she is sucked into what Evgenia Ginzburg described as "the whirlwind" of arrest, interrogation and punishment. Her mistake has been to leave a single sooty fingerprint on her writing desk, and this is enough for Leo to deduce that the diary may well be hidden in the chimney. The consequences of the investigation begin a journey that will strip from Leo the satisfactions of career, status and certainty."     ~ berniegourley.com and Amazon Books


Walter M. Miller, Jr. - A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) "A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer Walter M. Miller Jr., first published in 1960. Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the fictional Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it."     ~ Wikipedia and Amazon Books


Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse-Five (1966) "Kurt Vonnegut introduces his seventh novel, “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Delacorte), apologetically, calling it a failure. Coming from most writers, an apology like that would be inadequate; a writer can always take a vow of permanent abstinence from writing, and there is a shortage of cabdrivers. Mr. Vonnegut’s penitential gesture is objectionable because it implies that he might have succeeded in solving a problem that he properly represents as insoluble. In 1945, a German prisoner of war, he lived through the American and British bombing of Dresden, in which a hundred and thirty-five thousand people died—nearly twice as many, he notes, as were killed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, whose devastation was at least officially honored by a Presidential announcement. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is Vonnegut’s tribute to the strain imposed on his conscience by the fact that he survived, and by his increasing awareness, since the war, of the scope and variety of death. The vibrant simplicity of the book to which he finally surrendered his emotion makes his apology seem disingenuous, like Alexander the Great putting himself down for not dedicating his life to untying the Gordian knot. Besides, any book that is touted as a “masterpiece,” “long-awaited,” and “twenty years in the making” can’t be all bad if it turns out to be just a neat hundred and eighty-six pages long."     ~ Susan Lardner - newyorker.com and Amazon Books


Frederik Pohl - Gateway (1976) "Gateway is without a doubt one of the most entertaining and readable books on this list. It’s a page-turner in the best sense of the word, with an ingenious set up, a relatable main character, a dash of humor and a sustained sense of tension and suspense that keeps you on edge throughout. Add to that Pohl’s gift for clear, concise and engaging writing (something Science Fiction is not always known for) and you have a highly satisfying read that is able to entertain while also displaying the wonder and imagination that Science Fiction IS known for. Frederik Pohl represents a middle ground when it comes to Sci-Fi writers. He’s not too “Hard,” not too “Soft,” and he has just the right combination of grand ideas and compelling story lines to make his work instantly compelling – and Gateway is one of the best examples of his gifts as a storyteller. "     ~ top-science-fiction-novels.com and Amazon Books


William Gibson – Neuromancer (1984) "Neuromancer is not truly where it all began. Cyberpunk predates the publication of the novel by several years and was already a growing phenomenon. The film Blade Runner, loosely based on a 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick, was released in 1982, establishing a similar asethetic. But Neuromancer was the breakout hit. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula award (and the Philip K. Dick award, which does not, contrary to Wikipedia, have the same cachet). Gibson coined the word "cyberpunk" earlier, but Neuromancer is the novel that put it into the popular lexicon. "     ~ Eyrie.org and Amazon Books


Bruce Gibney - A Generation of Sociopaths (2017) "Millennials are killing everything from the American mediocre dining experience to Donald Trump’s chosen form of exercise. Given this propensity for destroying everything America holds dear, one might be forgiven for assuming that any work offering a collective psychological assessment of an entire generation would focus on the one that seemingly murders American institutions with impunity. Generation X venture capitalist-turned-author Bruce Gibney turns the tables on this millennial blaming with his work, A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. Gibney offers an explanation for the disintegration of the American economic and political system that rests on the backs of the generation that raised millennials: baby boomers. "     ~ Eric Morgenson - ActivistHistory.com and Amazon Books


Ursula K. Le Guin – The Lathe of Heaven (1971) "The Lathe of Heaven is one of those books for which the term mind-bending was invented. Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 novel about a man whose dreams can alter the very nature of reality is a masterful examination of the mind’s ability to shape our perception of the world around us and our powerful need to change that to fit our desires. While it shares thematic similarities to a lot of Philip K. Dick’s work in its discussion of alternate realities and the untrustworthy nature of our perceptions, Le Guin makes it uniquely her own by imagining how an effort to manipulate reality (even with the best of intentions) can have disastrous consequences. At turns contemplative, moody, exhilarating and terrifying, The Lathe of Heaven is one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time and an absolute must-read."     ~ Andrew Kaufman - top-science-fiction-novels.com and Amazon Books


Dee Brown – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970) "Surely revolutionary at the time that it was released, and even now, still an incredibly incisive look at how white American politics, backstabbing, greed, and genocide decimated the American Indian population, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is not a comfortable read. Wounded Knee is relentless in its documentation of the betrayals and battles suffered by the United States’ indigenous populations, from the Comanche to the Blackfeet to the Kiowa."     ~ BookWanderer.com and Amazon Books


David Fromkin - A Peace To End All Peace (1989) "'A Peace to End All Peace'' is about the dissolution of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire at the close of World War I and the consequences of that breakup for the Western powers, the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, the peoples of the Middle East themselves. On a still larger scale, the book concerns the political origins of the present-day Middle East. It concludes with the piecemeal territorial settlements of 1922, when political lines were drawn that bear a striking resemblance to the boundaries of today. "     ~ NYTimes.com and Amazon Books


John Twelve Hawks - Spark (2017) "Jacob Underwood is dead. At least, he thinks he is. Suffering the after effects of a traumatic accident, Jacob believes he is dead, just a spark existing inside a body, but unable to fully interact with anything around him. Emotionally detached and living in a shadowy, silent world, Jacob is the ideal assassin. When a new hit is assigned to him, Jacob must prepare himself - and his journey will change both his self, and how he sees the world around him. John Twelve Hawks is an interesting character - he rose to fame following the publication of his 'Fourth Realm Trilogy', and yet the real identity of the author is unknown. His fear of publicity, fame, and putting details in the public domain, are used wonderfully in this novel, and really help to build the world. The world itself is a dystopian future, one in which privacy is long extinct, and all thoughts are monitored for deviations against the norm. Jacob Underwood, the main character, fits in well in the world - his lack of emotions making him able to carry out assassinations without much fear of detection. "     ~ TheBookBag.co.uk and Amazon Books


Ryunosuke Akutagawa - Rashomon (1914) "The author’s gifted and tortured soul is visible throughout this amazing collection of stories. It is divided into four sections: (1) A World in Decay, (2) Under the Sword, (3) Modern Tragicomedy and (4) Akutagawa’s Own Story. These sections correspond to four periods of Japanese history as well as four creative styles which took birth from Akutagawa’s fertile imagination. In the first section, stories (most of them retelling of old legends) set in the Heian Period (A.C.E. 794 – 1185) are included. This was Japan’s classical era; a time of peace, prosperity and opulence when art and culture flourished. But as is common with most ancient kingdoms, it declined and power slipped from the hands of the aristocrats into the hands of the warlords. It is this twilight period that Akutagawa uses as a backdrop for his stories of degeneration and decay. The title story of the collection, Rashomon, encapsulates the entire misery of the country in the symbol of the gate of the capital city of Kyoto."     ~ nandakishorevarma.wordpress.com and Amazon Books


Jorgen Brekke - The Fifth Element (2017) " Forgoing the historical excursions that tangled the first two cases of Trondheim’s Inspector Odd Singsaker (Dreamless, 2015, etc.), Brekke mingles the immediate past, present, and future to produce an even more tangled, but deeply rewarding, tale... The intricately linked plotlines will appeal to puzzle fans. But it’s Brekke’s prodigious powers of invention, his ability to keep coming up with unforgettable characters and indelible episodes, that lift this above his own earlier work and most of the heavy Nordic competition."     ~ KirkusReviews.com and Amazon Books


Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward - All the President's Men (1973) " In the course of a gripping narrative, rather like a good detective story, we are treated to gossipy peeks behind the scenes of power in Washington (Ken Clawson of the White House staff hysterically upset not because the Post was about to print a story saying he had confessed to writing the infamous "Canuck letter," but because his confession had been given one night to Post reporter Marilyn Berger over drinks in her apartment and he was afraid the story might reveal that, too; Clawson was a Nixonian family man, after all). More important, we are treated to a detailed description of the process of diggin"     ~ Ron Dorfman - Chicago Tribune and Amazon Books


DashiellHammett - The Maltese Falcon (1930) " is the Hammett novel that jumps from the pages of its genre and into literature. It's the book that introduces Sam Spade, the private detective who seduced a generation of readers, leading directly to Philip Marlowe. Dorothy Parker, never a pushover, confessed herself "in a daze of love" such as she had not known in literature "since I encountered Sir Lancelot" and claimed to have read the novel some 30 or 40 times."     ~ Robert McCrum - TheGuardian.com and Amazon Books


Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Idiot (1868-9) "is a novel by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published serially in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1868-9. The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince (Knyaz) Lyov Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky set himself the task of depicting "the positively good and beautiful man".[2] The novel examines the consequences of placing such a unique individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved. The result, according to philosopher A.C. Grayling, is "one of the most excoriating, compelling and remarkable books ever written; and without question one of the greatest."[3]"     ~ Wikipedia and Amazon Books


Anne Fortier - The Lost Sisterhood (2014) "Diana Morgan has focused her career as a philologist (one who engages in the study of literary text and written records), on the Amazons, the legendary warrior women of ancient Greece—and with good reason. They’re rooted in her own family history. Before disappearing without a trace, Diana’s grandmother used to regale her with stories about the lost tribe of warrior women. Her grandmother even went as far as to suggest that she was an Amazon herself, leading the rest of the family to doubt her mental capacity. Diana’s scholarly work at Oxford University centers on the discovery and dissection of the Amazon race; however, other professors warn her that she is committing career suicide if she continues to focus on a part of history that most regard as completely fantastical."     ~ BookPage® Review by Elisabeth Atwood and Amazon Books


Peter George: Red Alert (1958) "SAC ATTACK!: Every minute of every hour of every day, there are American bombers in the air, loaded with H-bombs, ready to fly into action at the mere spark of the right radio signal. These are the planes and the men of the Strategic Air Command. What happens once that signal flashes is described vividly in this tensly dramatic novel. The command came to the men of the 843rd Wing, high in the air near the Soviet border. Asking no questions, obeying their standing orders, they headed straight towards their assigned targets. Had America already been attacked? Or was it the action of a single determined general, and unauthorized by the Pentagon and the president? RED ALERT is the story of the two tensest hours in human history. Is the basis for the Stanley Kubrick film, "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb." Not to be confused with the later screenplay/novel by Peter George and Stanley Kubrick. This story is very different from that book and the film.""     ~ FantasticFiction.com and Amazon Books


Philip K. Dick: The Minority Report (1956) "is a 1956 science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick, first published in Fantastic Universe. In a future society, three mutants foresee all crime before it occurs. Plugged into a great machine, these "precogs" allow the Precrime Division to arrest suspects prior to any infliction of public harm. When the head of Precrime, John A. Anderton, is accused of murdering Leopold Kaplan, a man whom he has never met, Anderton is convinced a great conspiracy is afoot.""     ~ Wikipedia.org and Amazon Books


Anne Rice – Interview with a Vampire (1976) "Interview with the Vampire is a debut gothic horror and vampire novel by American author Anne Rice, published in 1976. Based on a short story Rice wrote around 1968, the novel centers on vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac, who tells the story of his life to a reporter. Rice composed the novel shortly after the death of her young daughter Michelle, who served as an inspiration for the child-vampire character Claudia. Though initially the subject of mixed critical reception, the book was followed by a large number of widely popular sequels, collectively known as The Vampire Chronicles."     ~ Wikipedia.org and Amazon Books


Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) "To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on that gut instinct of right and wrong, and distinguishes it from just following the law. Even the titular quote: "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" is in itself an allegory for this message. Being in itself a generic message, the idea of 'doing what's right' obviously has a different meaning depending on when and where you're reading the book." ~ independent.co.uk.


Zoë Heller - What Was She Thinking? (2003) "This is one of those disquieting novels that proffers its apparent theme then cunningly reveals itself to be about something else altogether. As its title and first pages suggest, its surface plot concerns a tabloid-pleasing sizzler of a scandal. Sheba Hart, a 41-year-old pottery teacher, arrives at a dreggy north London comp trailing the kind of tarnished glamour that sets the school's sex-starved males mildly abuzz. The suitor who presses his case first is 15-year-old Steven Connolly, a reasonably gormless lad with mild artistic proclivities, a cabbie father, and a home on an estate." ~ TheGuardian.com.


Richard K. Morgan - Altered Carbon (2003) "In the far future universe of Richard K. Morgan's debut novel Altered Carbon, human consciousness has been digitized. Every human being is implanted at birth with a cortical stack, which records every second, every thought, every experience. If you have the money (or purchase the right insurance policy), you can be brought back to life after you die by the simple expedient of implanting your stack into a new body, a process known as sleeving. The penal system no longer stores live criminals, but only their digital selves. Travelers beam their minds across space via needlecast, and wake up in new sleeves. Wars are fought by troops whose minds are downloaded into bodies on-site -- troops like the Envoy Corps, the enforcement arm of the despotic UN Protectorate, which rules Earth and its colony worlds with an iron fist." ~ sfsite.com.


Philip K Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) "Philip K Dick's vision of a dystopian post-apocalyptic earth is a seminal work of science fiction, created in 1968 it was way ahead of it's time and predicted such technology as the video phone. There are many ideas subtly played throughout the novel, while on the surface we've got the examination of the human condition which asks questions about identity and altruism, we've also got the religious theory of Mercerism - a pseudo-religion that offers many a clearly false hope."    ~ Anthony - SF Book Reviews.


Anne Tyler - The Accidental Tourist (1985) "'The Accidental Tourist' combines comedy and tragedy without veering into farce or sentimentality. It's a novel that runs deep and showcases her ability to make the everyday both entirely recognisable and extraordinary. This novel, full of wisdom and writing that sneaks up on you with its brilliance, its insights, and its sheer humanity, gave me back my appetite for reading - while its author became an enduring professional role-model." ~ independent.co.uk


Michael Haneke - The Piano Teacher (1983) "In Michael Haneke's 2001 adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek's novel, the role of the piano teacher is played, with a chilling impenetrability, by Isabelle Huppert. Her performance allows us to apprehend her character's intense inner life, but from a distance. The actual novel is far more terrifying. Jelinek plunges us into the mind of Erika Kohut, a repressed piano teacher and failed concert pianist who self-harms and joylessly engages in sexual voyeurism." ~ theguardian.com


Richard Condon - The Manchurian Candidate (1959) "In The Manchurian Candidate author Richard Condon takes a clever idea and nearly runs amok with it. The idea is that during the Korean War Raymond Shaw and ten other men on an Intelligence and Reconnaissance patrol were captured by the Chinese, brainwashed, and then released, convinced that Shaw had heroically saved them (save two, who didn't make it) after an (imaginary) engagement with the enemy. It's a feat of bravery that earns Shaw the prestigious Medal of Honor -- just as the Chinese intended." ~ Complete-Review.com


Delacorta - DIVA (1997) "This short novel is a light-hearted but hard-edged trip through the seedy underside of Parisian life and the business side of operatic music. It seems pertinent to point out that the book was later made into a stylish movie in 1981, which has since gained cult status and remains a favorite of this reader. As the movie was so widely known (perhaps not so much any more?), the novel is perhaps a bit of a curiosity as one of the few works of its author, Delacorta (nom de plume of Swiss author Daniel Odier), to have been translated into English. The movie diverged from the book in the protagonists it focused upon, as well as in its more romantic storytelling. " ~ John Q McDonald - The Thumbnail Book Reviews


Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness (1899) "In 1890, Joseph Conrad, an officer aboard the Roi des Belges, sailed up the River Congo into the hinterland of the Congo Free State, in effect the private fiefdom of King Leopold of Belgium. Eight years later, just as details of Leopold's genocidal regime began to become public, Conrad's experiences there inspired him to write Heart of Darkness, as powerful a condemnation of imperialism as has ever been written, and still a deeply unsettling read more than a century on."     Wikipedia, Amazon.com


Larry Niven - Protector (1987) "The novel comprises two phases in the same space that are separated by 220 years of time. Its central conceit is that Humans evolved from the juvenile stage of the Pak, a species with a distinct adult form ("protectors") that have immense strength and intelligence and care only about younger Pak of their bloodline. A key plot point is that transition to the protector stage is mediated by consumption of the root of a particular plant called Tree-of-Life, which cannot be effectively cultivated on Earth."     Wikipedia, Amazon.com


Neil Gaiman - American Gods (2001) "In what is one of his most celebrated works, up there along with Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one of the best books of its genre. The real dilemma presented us however is understanding just which genre Gaiman was writing. This is not a negative opinion of his writing ability, suggesting that he doesn’t seem to have any idea what he is doing. Just the contrary, American Gods manages to broach several genre barriers all the while making it look as if Gaiman was creating his own genre."     Fantasy Book Review, Amazon.com


Harry Bates - Farewell to the Master (1940) "The story is told from the viewpoint of Cliff Sutherland, a free-lance picture reporter, who is present when a mysterious "curving ovoid" ship instantaneously appears in the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Two days later, "visitors from the Unknown" emerge: a "god-like" person in human form and an 8-foot (2.44 m) tall robot made of green metal. The former only manages to state "I am Klaatu and this is Gnut" before he is shot and killed by a lunatic. Klaatu is buried nearby. In the days that follow, Gnut remains motionless, while laboratories and a museum are built around it and the ship. Both prove impervious to the investigations of scientists."     wikipedia, Amazon.com


ROGER ZELAZNY - Nine Princes in Amber (1970) "The first novel of the series, which would eventually span ten volumes (but all of which together perhaps have no greater a cumulative word-count than a single Terry Goodkind book), introduces us to Corwin, the long-lost heir to the throne of Amber, the "true" Earth beneath which all other worlds, including our own, belong to the realm of Shadow. Exiled to our world years before by his brother Eric, Corwin's tale begins in a hospital where he awakens with total amnesia and is forced to piece his identity and destiny together with only the scantiest of clues. Reacquainted with two siblings, his sister Flora and brother Random, Corwin learns, gradually, of his true identity even as Eric, fearing his return to Amber, is sending thugs and killers after him. Corwin and Random return — through magical means that Zelazny disdains to explain fully so as, one assumes, not to rob the story of its poetry — to Amber. There Corwin's memory is restored through an ordeal involving a magical Pattern, and the fight against Eric is quickly joined after that."     sfreviews.net, Amazon.com


Ken Kesey - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) "Kesey uses a risky narrative device. The story's told by Chief Bromden, a longtime mental patient who has been electroshocked and overmedicated, leaving his perception wavery and confused. At times lost between a dream state and reality, Chief is hampered by fear and his vision that the real world is controlled by a massive, metallic superstructure he calls the Combine. Everyone believes, incorrectly, that Chief is deaf and dumb; his perceived disability allows him to move essentially unseen throughout the ward, witnessing private conversations. This means he can tell us everything that's happening, although sometimes he tells it slant."     latimes.com, Amazon.com


William Goldman - Marathon Man (1974) "Okay it's the mid-seventies and times aren't so great in the United States. Watergate, Vietnam, recession, inflation, energy crises, oil embargo, dramatic increase in crime, Richard Nixon and Disco. People were tired, wearing double-knit polyester leisure suits, angry, afraid (of everything) paranoid, and feeling spiritually bankrupt. So along comes William Goldman with Marathon Man. A grim, violent, paranoid thriller. People ate it up."     StephenKing.com, Amazon.com


Joseph Heller - CATCH-22 (1961) "Catch-22 tells the story of one Captain John Yossarian, an Air Force bomber pilot in WWII. While lots of people might think of him as a hero for his brave service, Yossarian sees past all the pomp and patriotism and understands war as something else entirely: sheer madness. The book condemns both war itself and the powers that carry out this systematic carnage. It's famous for its satirical tone, fractured narrative, and linguistic flourishes—all of which reflect the nonsensical nature of the military enterprise that has Yossarian feeling hopelessly stuck. And that phrase—hopelessly stuck—pretty much sums up the whole novel. These boys, as the title suggests, are in a classic catch-22."     Amazon.com


John Wyndham - The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) "For those of you still in the dark as to this novel's plot: it all begins when the sleepy little country hamlet of Midwich, a town the book's narrator goes to great pains to describe as utterly nondescript, experiences a bizarre phenomenon. For a full day, every living thing is rendered unconscious by a mysterious force that forms a perfect circle enveloping the whole town. With a few obvious exceptions (someone killed falling down stairs, etc.), everyone wakes up from the ordeal — which will soon be referred to as the "Dayout" — none the worse for their experience. Until it is revealed that every woman of child-bearing age in Midwich is pregnant."     SFReviews.net


Glendon Swarthout - The Shootist (1975) "It's 1901 and an end of an era. With the dawn of the new century, we meet a lone man who has outlived his time. And as his days grow shorter, we witness that they run in parallel with the dying of the Old West. Receiving only resentment and greed from others, he bravely decides his own fate and punches a statement onto his own legacy and for the West of the past. Reading "The Shootist" you quickly realize you have a great book in your hands. Famed and labeled as a "gun man," a"man-killer," an "assassin," or a"shootist," 51 year-old John Bernard Books rides into El Paso to get a second option from the town doctor. Unfortunately the news is the same, he has an advanced case of prostate cancer and can expect an excruciating death in a few weeks."     Vintage Hardboiled Reads


Davis Grubb - Night of the Hunter (1953) "When the actor James O'Neill played the title character in a stage version of The Count of Monte Cristo, it was a piece of "good bad luck," his son Eugene O'Neill later said. James O'Neill could never escape the shadow of the role that made him famous. A related kind of "good bad luck" befell Davis Grubb in 1955, when a movie was made of the novel he had published two years earlier, The Night of the Hunter. So vivid and menacing is the film, which stars Robert Mitchum as the sinister predator with l-o-v-e tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and h-a-t-e on the other, that most people have forgotten all about the novel. That's a shame, because The Night of the Hunter is a gorgeous gut-punch of a book, a crime novel and ghost story and morality tale all rolled into one, an ugly-beautiful book that makes you leap at shadows and shudder when the sun goes down."     Julia Keller - NPR Books


C. J. Cherryh – The Morgaine Saga (1976, 78 & 79) "The first books in the series were published in the late 1970s, and later packaged into one large volume, but the adventures of Vanye and Morgaine were left unfinished. A few more works followed in the same series, two graphic novels and an ‘interactive’ novel, but none were able to match the effect of the originals and have largely been forgotten. For many, myself included, that is a good thing for it is the original three novels (and the associated omnibus) that stand the test of time. They are without doubt some of the best Science-Fantasy works ever produced and can be compared to the greatest books in either genre. The reader is treated like an intelligent, thinking, feeling human being and is given a story with that in mind."     ~ Read Review: An Sionnach Fionn - http://ansionnachfionn.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Elmore Leonard – Out of Sight (1996) "THE oldest unsolved mystery on the books, human love, is the case to crack in ''Out of Sight,'' Elmore Leonard's new novel, in which the cop is a lady with a gift for meeting Mr. Wrong and the robber is a guy who just might have been, in a different life, Mr. Right. It begins auspiciously with a prison break, a group of convicts tunneling out of the medium-security Florida pen where Jack Foley, a career bank robber, is doing time after his third major fall. "     ~ Ralph Lombreglia - New York Times. Link: Amazon and Wikipedia


David Lagercrantz – The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel (2015) "Without ever becoming pastiche, the book is a respectful and affectionate homage to the originals. Two of the new characters deliberately nod to the Pippi Longstocking books, which were one of Larsson’s inspirations for Salander; and the Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, of the first Millennium book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is alluded to in a number of references to misogny and maltreatment of women. There may still be arguments about whether continuation novels should be written at all, but Lagercrantz could not have fulfilled the commission any more efficiently. The novel leaves much to be said between Salander and Blomkvist and so surely increases the chances of the sequence continuing on towards the 10 books that Larsson is said to have originally imagined."     ~ Mark Lawson - The Guardian. Link: Amazon and Wikipedia


Stieg Larsson – Millennium Trilogy (2005~2007) "This trilogy is an absolutely gripping read. Even though crime fiction may not be my first choice, every now and then I stumble upon a book which grabs my attention and these were definitely examples. Larsson writes a very intriguing story set at a fast pace, making you want more as quickly as possible. The fact that the some of the characters are loosely based on his own experience make it even more interesting, and successfully intertwines various different angles into the novel: the sex trade and violence and abuse against women, the abuse of power by those in control, and the cover-up by the government of secrets it doesn’t want anybody to know. The fact that the novel is based in Sweden and also well away from what we might imagine to be a stereotypical setting for a crime novel, also makes quite a difference to the books. If you are looking for a new, thrilling read, then I definitely recommend the Millenium trilogy."   Emma Brooks - The Vibe.  Links:   Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Blott On The Landscape - Tom Sharpe (1975) "The novel Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe is a fine English comedy. It feels realistic even when the situations escalate into outrageousness. The eccentric, misplaced, or merely crooked personalities blunder through their crises with often risque mutual attraction and repulsion. The action is fast, the plot tight, and the deceptively straightforward style well laced with wit... Blott on the Landscape, like Tom Sharpe's works generally, is not for young or tender sensibilities. There is skullduggery of an adult nature. The psychological and legal maneuverings escalate hilariously, and Sharpe is capable of considerable mayhem as the "normal" procedures spiral out of control. A very funny novel."     ~ Read Review: ~ Robert Wilfred Franson - troynovant.com and Amazon Books


All You Need Is Kill - Hiroshi Sakurazaka (2004) "Hiroshi Sakurazaka has written a grim story. Main character Kiriya Keiji is stuck in an unending nightmare of war and death. Where other people would break, however, Keiji is determined to break out of his personal hell and pay those alien invaders back for all the pain they inflict on him and his comrades. Reliving the same two days countless times, he struggles, learns, adapts and kills. "    ~ Read Review: Reading Lamp Blog Spot and Amazon Books


Rosalind Cummings-Yeates – Exploring Chicago Blues: Inside the Scene, Past and Present (2014) "Exploring Chicago Blues is presented in two parts. It begins with a history lesson, tracing the origins of Chicago’s blues scene to The Great Migration, which brought massive numbers of African Americans north between about 1915 and 1970. It was during these years, Cummings-Yeates notes, that the blues took root in Chicago, transforming from an acoustic, country-tinged sound to the more electric, urban tones we recognize today. The book then takes a look at the state of Chicago blues in modern times."    ~ Read Review: Chicago Review of Books and Amazon Books


Dashiell Hammett – The Thin Man (1934) "Steven Marcus, editor of Hammett for The Library of America, said "In a few years of extraordinary creative energy Dashiell Hammett invented the modern crime novel." In referring to The Thin Man "His last novel, The Thin Man, a ruefully comic tip of the hat to the traditional mystery form, introduces Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated inebriates who would enjoy a long afterlife in the movies." So, call me a heretic. I didn't find anything particularly appealing about Nick and Nora. I am going to watch the movie since I'm leading a book discussion for "Adapted For the Silver Screen". With the book, I found Nick to be a bored man who married a younger wife. He quit his profession, drinks too much (constantly), and flirts too much. Nora just seems bored with her life, looks for excitement wherever she can find it, and, again, drinks, flirts, and pushes Nick into trouble."    ~ Read Review: Lesa's Book Critiques, Wikipedia and Amazon Books


Carlos Castaneda – The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968) "OLD YAQUI. The book was The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968). With its sequels, A Separate Reality (1971) and the current Journey to Ixtlan (1972), it has made U.S. cult figures of its author and subject an anthropologist named Carlos Castaneda and a mysterious old Yaqui Indian from Sonora called Juan Matus. In essence, Castaneda's books are the story of how a European rationalist was initiated into the practice of Indian sorcery. They cover a span of ten years, during which, under the weird, taxing and sometimes comic tutelage of Don Juan, a young academic labored to penetrate and grasp what he calls the "separate reality" of the sorcerer's world."    ~ Read Review: Time Magazine (1973) - erowid.org, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Dashiell Hammett - The Maltese Falcon (1941) "Raymond Chandler, who has yet to appear in this series, once said: "Hammett is all right. I give him everything. There were a lot of things he could not do, but what he did, he did superbly." He added, in a summary that helps define Hammett’s achievement: "He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before." He also gave his characters a distinctive language and convincing motivations in a genre that had grown stereotyped, flaccid and uninvolving. The Maltese Falcon is the Hammett novel that jumps from the pages of its genre and into literature. It’s the book that introduces Sam Spade, the private detective who seduced a generation of readers, leading directly to Philip Marlowe. Dorothy Parker, never a pushover, confessed herself "in a daze of love" such as she had not known in literature "since I encountered Sir Lancelot" and claimed to have read the novel some 30 or 40 times." ~ Robert McCrum - theguardian.com.


James Grady - Six Days of the Condor (1974) "The novel that inspired the Robert Redford film Three Days of the Condor. Sandwiches save Ronald Malcolm’s life. On the day that gunmen pay a visit to the American Literary Historical Society, he’s out at lunch. The Society is actually a backwater of the Central Intelligence Agency, where Malcolm and a few other bookworms comb mystery novels for clues that might unlock real life diplomatic questions. One of his colleagues has learned something he wasn’t meant to know. A sinister conspiracy has penetrated the CIA, and the gunmen are its representatives. They massacre the office, and only learn later of Malcolm—a loose end that needs to be dealt with." ~ mysteriouspress.com.


Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises (1926) "The Sun Also Rises endures as one of the most popular and significant books to emerge from American literature of the 1920s – along with Hemingway’s friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby (published only a year earlier in 1925), which examines postwar life stateside, The Sun Also Rises is generally regarded as a definitive guide to life in the hedonistic, confusing, and fascinating post-WWI era." ~ shmoop.com.


Kim Harrison - UNDEAD POOL (2014) "Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has managed to save the demonic ever after from shrinking, but at a high cost. Now strange magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows, causing spells to backfire or go horribly wrong, and the truce between the races, between Inderlander and human, is shattering. Rachel must stop the occurrences before the undead vampire masters who keep the rest of the undead under control are lost and it becomes all-out supernatural war. However, the only way to do so is through the ancient elven wild magic, which carries its own perils" ~ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.


Jim Butcher - SKIN GAME (2014) "Now if you are reading this book, you know what to expect in a Harry Dresden story, Jim Butcher piles up the comedy (Parkour), terrific action sequences, crafty plot twists and some neat character reappearances. Firstly why I think this book rocks so much is because of Nicodemus and the Denarians. As far as the villains of this series go, Nicodemus and bunch are pretty much at the top of the sociopathic heap. What makes Nicodemus IMHO so intriguing is that he's a willing partner with Anduriel and so far has been the one guy who rivals Harry in his determination! Johnny Marcone is another fascinating rival for Harry but he's the subject for another book review." ~ Fantasy Book Critic.


William Goldman - The Princess Bride (1973) "There are actually two stories here. The first is the supposedly abridged version of S. Morgenstern's darkly humorous take on the archetypal fairy tale of high adventure in pitting good and noble young innocents against the treacherous forces of evil. The second recounts the transformational events that led William Goldman to write "The Good Parts" abridgement and screenplay of The Princess Bride in which the forces of good (the creative storyteller) triumph over the forces of evil (corporate suits who control the purse strings). There's a fairy tale story here, too, equally archetypal, concerning the reconciliation of a father and son and the quest to regain a seemingly lost gift. It, too, is a humorous story with shadowy overtones. Both tales leave us not quite sure if there's a happy ending. "    ~ SF Site: A review by David Soyka .


Anne Fortier - The Lost Sisterhood (2014) "Diana Morgan has focused her career as a philologist (one who engages in the study of literary text and written records), on the Amazons, the legendary warrior women of ancient Greece—and with good reason. They’re rooted in her own family history. Before disappearing without a trace, Diana’s grandmother used to regale her with stories about the lost tribe of warrior women. Her grandmother even went as far as to suggest that she was an Amazon herself, leading the rest of the family to doubt her mental capacity. Diana’s scholarly work at Oxford University centers on the discovery and dissection of the Amazon race; however, other professors warn her that she is committing career suicide if she continues to focus on a part of history that most regard as completely fantastical."    ~ BookPage® Review by Elisabeth Atwood .


Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) "Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers."    ~ prettybooks.com.


Alex Skolnick - Geek to Guitar Hero (2013) "Alex Skolnick. Metal fans know him as the lead guitarist for the band Testament. Jazz fans know him from his band AST – Alex Skolnick Trio. I first saw and heard him in 2006 when he played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I remember sensing an immediate connection with him, though at the time I didn’t know why. I’d see him play with TSO a few more times, really enjoy his playing, and each time sense there was something more to this guy than great guitar playing."    ~ klyvian.com.


Terry Teachout – Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington ’ (2013) "Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady," remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm."    ~ 2013 National Book Award Longlist.


Neil Gaiman – Ocean at the End of the Lane’ (2013) ""Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet," Neil Gaiman writes in his slim, dark dream of a new novel, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane." "But they are never lost for good." Who we used to be sometimes seems like a faint shadow of who we are now, but Gaiman helps us remember the wonder and terror and powerlessness that owned us as children."    ~ BENJAMIN PERCY - The New York Times.


Alison Stewart – First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School (2013) "The nation's first black public high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar High, opened its doors in Washington, D.C., in 1870. But more than 140 years later, Dunbar — like many urban schools — has fallen on hard times. The crumbling, brutalist-style building is often described as a prison, and graduation rates hover around 60 percent. But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, the yearbook read like a Who's Who of black America."    ~ NPR Staff article, and audio interview link.


Kim Harrison – Ever After (2012) "With Ever After, Harrison has presented an emotional, game changing entry into what is already one of the best urban fantasy series out there right now. Rachel is much surer of herself in this one, and while she does have her moments of indecision and some healthy self-doubt (things get pretty bad at times), she’s at the top of her form magically and she’s not afraid to let her demon flag fly. " 

  ~ Kristin Centorcelli - SF Signal, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Jim Butcher – Cold Days (2012) "Cold Days is one hell of a ride. In many ways it’s designed to get us excited about the series again, and I have to say that it worked for me. After the first twelve books, and then the transitional Ghost Story, it seems like Butcher is gearing up for the plunge toward the end. He’s clearly become a better writer over the years, too, deftly handling multiple plotlines in a confident, assured way. I used to be someone who was bored by his epic battle scenes in the ends of the books (I guess I’m more into the character moments), but the one in this book is solid. In fact, and I mean this in a very good way, I found the action toward the end cinematic. I could clearly see it taking shape in my mind and it would thrive on a screen (though it did just fine in my imagination)." 
  ~ Rajan Khanna - tor.com/blogs, Wikipedia, Amazon Books & Website


John Barth – Lost in the Funhouse (1968) "If you study 20th century literature in college, chances are Lost in the Funhouse will make the syllabus (or at least the recommended reading list). Barth started getting really wacky with the short stories in this collection, but what the heck, it was the ’60s. One of these tales ("Menelaiad") was meant to be read aloud with synchronized looping tape recorders. One ("Night-Sea Journey") is written from the point of view of a sperm. One ("Frame-tale") is an endless loop, both the shortest and longest story ever written."    ~ Synopsis~ The John Barth Information Center, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


JRR Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings (1954) "In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth still it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell, by chance, into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. From his fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, Sauron's power spread far and wide. He gathered all the Great Rings to him, but ever he searched far and wide for the One Ring that would complete his dominion. On his eleventy-first birthday, Bilbo disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin, Frodo, the Ruling Ring, and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the wizard, Merry, Pippin and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider... "    ~ Read Review~ FantasyBookReview.co.uk


Paul de Barros – 'Shall We Play That One Together?': The life of piano jazz legend Marian McPartland (2012) "Jazz critic and Seattle Times music editor Paul de Barros' compelling new biography of Marian McPartland, "Shall We Play That One Together?," is a knowledgeable and evenhanded account of the life of McPartland, from her birth in England to her long tenure as NPR's "Piano Jazz" host. "    ~ Read Review ~  Gene Seymour - seattletimes.com and Interview ~ Paul de Barros: Critically Speaking


Laura Joh Rowland – Shinju (1994) "Shinju is a novel that introduces its reader to Sano Ichiro, a member of the shogun class who serves as a yoriki, investigating crimes in seventeenth-century Edo (Tokyo). It’s a position he’d rather not be in, since he gained his position through connections; and many of his contemporaries resent him for it. When the daughter of one of the most preeminent families in Edo turns up dead in the company of a lowly artist, everyone assumes that they were a double love-suicide, or Shinju. But Sano Ichiro suspects otherwise, and his search for a murderer leads him into dangerous territory—especially since the family of the dead girl would rather keep the matter closed. "    ~ Read Review: agirlwalksintoabookstore blogspot, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Elmore Leonard – Valdez Is Coming (1970) "Elmore Leonard began his career writing westerns. It was near the end of the film version of ‘Out of Sight’ that I realised he has been writing them ever since. Western plots, that is, he just varies the location and the age in which it is set. ‘Valdez is Coming’ is both a worthy book and a great read, bristling with the rightly acclaimed Leonard dialogue. His social conscience encourages him to take on risky subjects and here he tackles racist attitudes. Valdez is an ex army scout adept at tracking Apaches and former leader of the Apache scouts for General Crook in the Geronimo campaign. "    ~ Read Review: Chris Smallbone - nativeamerican.co.uk, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Tom Sharpe – The Throwback (1978) "Tom Sharpe, best known for the Wilt novels, has been described as Britain's funniest living novelist, but unforgivably I had never read any of his books apart from an extract from Wilt in an English A level class in 1996. So when I came across a copy of The Throwback among the second hand bookstall at Barnes Village Fair, I pounced on it. Gosh. Lockhart Flawse is a bastard. Literally. The identity of his father is a vexing question to his grandfather, who takes Lockhart under his wing and raises him at Flawse Hall to be completely innocent in all matters of sexuality."    ~ Read Review: Kenneth Andrews - Helium.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Thomas Berger – Little Big Man (1989) -  A Classic Novel of Lies and Counter-Lies in the Old West - "Little Big Man by Thomas Berger is a classic novel that explores the shifting sands between truth and fiction, lies and facts. It is an excellent read, beautifully written, and on top of all that a poignant and memorable story. But the novel goes deeper because at its core it challenges what we think about the Old West, and why we think and believe the things we do. "    ~ Read Review: Kenneth Mark Hoover - thewesternonline.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Official Publisher Page


Jo Nesbø – Nemesis (2002) - "Nemesis is the fourth book in Jo Nesbo’s excellent Harry Hole series, but the second available in English translation if you wish to read the books in chronological order. It is confusing as the first two Harry Hole books have not been translated into English and the rest have been translated out of order. For the correct reading order, I’ve provided a list at the end of this review. I strongly recommend reading the series in order if you can. While the mysteries are self-contained and solved by the end of each novel, there is a subplot which forms a continuing story arc over a few books."    ~ Read Review: Sarah - monkeybearreviews.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Kim Harrison – A Perfect Blood (2012)   "Everyone's favourite itchy witch is quickly in trouble again as she becomes involved in solving a series of gruesome murders perpetrated by HAPA, a human hate group whose attentions are directed at Inderlanders. And of course Rachel is suspected of nefarious involvement now that her status as a demon has been revealed. Events unfold with plenty of twists and turns. A Perfect Blood is a solid and welcome entry in the The Hollows mythology. It doesn't resolve any of the really big overreaching story arc questions and that may disappoint some fans, but ultimately Rachel is the heart of the series and deservedly so. She shines in A Perfect Blood, easily carrying the mystery thriller on her shoulders."    ~ Read Review: scifiguy.ca, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


George R.R. Martin – A Dance with Dragons (2011) "the fifth book in the hugely popular Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, is one of the most anticipated novel of the last few years. In the four previous volumes of this sprawling fantasy epic, which was inspired by England's War of the Roses in the 1400s, Martin has captivated readers with complex story lines, fascinating characters, great dialogue, perfect pacing, and the willingness to kill off even his major characters. His readers now number in the millions and a recent HBO series — "Game of Thrones" — based on the first installment in the series faithfully showcases all of Martin's strengths."    ~ Read Review: Jeff VanderMeer - LATimes.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Jim Butcher – Ghost Story (2011) "Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series is a fast-moving hard-boiled detective series laced with magic, sex, vampires, werewolves, comic- book references, fairies and angels — fallen and not. It's very entertaining. Dresden finds out that with his death, Chicago has been invaded by various evil magical gangs, all fighting for territory. This is taking a deadly toll on the good guys, most of whom were Dresden's good friends. Being dead doesn't stop Harry Dresden from being the man he always was: a stubborn, forceful protector of the city and its denizens — both human and not — from all evil creatures great and small. Being dead just makes it a bit more difficult."    ~ Read Review: Tish Wells - denverpost.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Philip K. Dick – The Philip K. Dick Reader (1997) "Many thousands of readers consider Philip K. Dick the greatest science fiction mind on any planet. Since his untimely death in 1982, interest in Dick's works has continued to mount, and his reputation has been further enhanced by a growing body of critical attention. The Philip K. Dick Award is now given annually to a distinguished work of science fiction, and the Philip K. Dick Society is devoted to the study and promulgation of his works."    ~ Read Review: Kenneth Mark Hoover - thewesternonline.com, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Richard Castle – Heat Rises (2011) "In this new mystery, Detective Nikki Heat is called to the S&M dungeon where the body of man who turns out to be a priest, Father Graf, is found strapped to an apparatus, dead, with evidence of torture. Was that torture part of some hidden, kinky game Graf was involved in, or something worse? Heat, her partners, Ochoa and Raley (standing in for Esposito and Ryan from the TV show), have little to go on, but soon uncover a rather intricate plot that waxes over numerous suspects and leads."     ~ Read Review: Scott D. Parker - scottdparker.blogspot, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Website


Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow – The Grand Design (2010) "In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Douglas Adams famously had his characters ask a computer to provide the ultimate answer to "Life, the Universe, and Everything." As Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow point out in their book "The Grand Design," the computer's response -- 42 -- was less than helpful. Hawking, who needs no introduction, and Mlodinow, a Caltech physicist with a string of excellent books to his credit, have taken on that ultimate question in a somewhat more rigorous form by asking three related ones: Why is there something instead of nothing? Why do we exist? Why does this particular set of laws govern our universe and not some other set?"     ~ Read Review: James Trefil - Washington Post, Wikipedia, Amazon Books and Stephen Hawking's website


Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol (1843) "Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the definitive Christmas story. Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life may try each year to nudge it from its place at the top, but Dickens’ Victorian fairy tale reigns triumphant. (The fact that it has been adapted so many times for film, television, stage and radio gives it an advantage.) Yet when A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, the idea of Christmas as we know it – the essential winter holiday steeped in Victoriana – had yet to be invented. Christmas was a one-day holiday. Christmas cards were not introduced until 1846, and crackers did not appear until the mid-1850s. It is nigh on impossible to imagine an English Christmas without A Christmas Carol. That may be because it was present at the beginning of creation, as it were."     ~ Written by Christopher Bryant, Copyright © Polari Magazine.

Philip Van Doren Stern - The Greatest Gift (1943) "For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night. Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition cherished today."     Amazon.com