My Review Of Under The Ivy: The Life and Music of Kate Bush

Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush by Graeme Thomson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


If you, like me, think that Kate Bush is one of those rare geniuses that only comes along rarely, this is abook you will love. It is both a biography of her life and a study in how she created her music and related works. The author clearly talked to every important person in Bush’s life to get these insights into her working methods, and this let’s him bring to light the subtexts to a lot of her songs. And I want to note that this not a hagiography. Sometimes Bush failed at what shje attempted, and the author is able to look clearly at those events as well. And of course she was recently in the news when one of her songs, Running Up That Hill, was used in a popular TV show and shot back up the charts.



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My Review Of Stellar Revolution

Stellar Revolution by Stephen Goldin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In book 5 of Agents of ISIS, the wedding of Tsaritsa Natalia is the big event, but first Pias takes Eva, his fiance, to his home planet of Newforest. There he gets an initial warm reception, until he says he cannot stay. And he can’t explain why, since ISIS is very careful about letting out information, particularly about thier top agents, like Eva, and Pias is destined to join ISIS formally himself. He gets ostracized as a result and has to leave without anyone acknowledging him. But on the ship back to Earth, they are captured by pirates, and they are part of the same organization headed up by Lady A. What do they want with the passengers of this ship? And Pias and Eva are of no use to them, so they are scheduled to be killed. And who is C, who just has come up? Is he or she above Lady A, below, and is there a B? In the climax, Judah saves the day by killing a robot who was going to kill the Tsaritsa, and the wedding does eventually come off. And Judah marries his fiance Vida, and Eva marries Pias, so all is well in the end.



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My Review Of Sanctuary Planet

Sanctuary Planet by Stephen Goldin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In Book 4 of the Agents of ISIS series, a problem has turned up. It seems that a number of prominent criminals have gone missing without a trace. And then the daughter of thee head of ISIS has also gone missing. They suspect she went undercover to try and solve the problem of the missing criminals, but she really doesn’t have field experience and is up against a very ruthless enemy. So the top agents of ISIS, Eva and Judah, are once again called into action to try and rescue the daughter, find out where the criminals have gone, and save the Empire. Two important new characters are introduced in this book. One is the mysterious Lady A, who seems to be the head of the conspiracy against the Empire. The other is Pias Bavol, who Eva falls in love with (and vice-versa). Another space opera romp.



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My Review Of Robot Mountain

Robot Mountain by Stephen Goldin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a continuation of Goldin’s reworking of his previous Family D’Alembert series as a new series called Agents of ISIS. The previous series was based on an idea by E.E. “Doc” Smith, and it was Smith who got all of the attention, so I think Goldin wanted something with his name on it. I enjoyed the story, which involves a threat to the Tsaritsa that is set to happen while she is meeting prospective husbands. The top agents of ISIS, Eva and Judah, are on the case but what does it mean that there is a bomb set to go off? And how does a planetary ruler with a fortress mountain filled with robots figure into the plot? Its a nice romp.



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My Review of Butterfly Stomp

Butterfly Stomp by Michael Warren Lucas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a short novella that is essentially the beginning chapters of the novel Butterfly Stomp Waltz, but it is a complete story so you shouldn’t be put off by that. It is an introduction to a series that Lucas has written involving a heroine who is like Mission: Impossible. The action ramps up from the beginning and never stops. Since this is available for free as an e-book from the usual places (I got it from Amazon), it is painless way to try out a new series. I’d say you should give it a try, you just might like it. I certainly didn’t put it down once I started.



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My Review of A History of Webcomics

A History of Web Comics, V 1.0: The Golden Age: 1993-2005 by T. Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This does exactly what the title says it does: it covers the history of Webcomics from 1993-2005. Now, that is a pretty specialized topic, I will grant, but as it happens I like Webcomics and have a group of them I read every day, and I was interested in exploring this history in more detail, and maybe even picking up a few leads on ones I might want to add to my daily reading. Sadly, that didn’t work out because all of the ones that piqued my interest had either stopped producing or were already in my list. Ones that have stopped include, for instance, the wonderful User Friendly, which I miss, and Realm of Atland. Some of the ones covered, like Penny Arcade, I tried and decided were not to my interest. But the book still was enjoyable. I would say this is not a compulsive page turner, but a book to read a little from time to time as the mood takes you.



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My Review of Treacherous Moon

Treacherous Moon by Stephen Goldin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is the second book in the series, and once again it pretty closely follows the original from the previous Family D’Alembert series (see my review of Tsar Wars for the details on that). Suffice it to say, this is a pleasant enough romp, but I didn’t see any substantial changes over the original. I don’t mind that exactly, but it gave me no reason for a higher rating. The first book managed to improve on the original in some respects, whereas this one simply filed off the serial numbers and changed the names. I read it on a plane and it was a perfectly good way to kill time, but not a lot of meat on these bones.



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My Review of Tsar Wars

Tsar Wars by Stephen Goldin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So, once upon a time E.E. “Doc” Smith had an idea for a series involving the Family D’Alembert and their service to an interstellar empire headed by a Tsarist government of Russian origin. But Smith didn’t do much more than write an initial novella, and then it was turned over to Stephen Goldin, who turned the novella into a novel and then wrote 9 more novels to finish out the series. Dune it ain’t, but I enjoyed the series, and I generally enjoy Goldin’s writing. Well. that series had Smith’s name all over it, and Goldin was barely acknowledged even though he wrote almost all of it. And that might be why he decided to redo it as his own series, so he “wrote” another ten novels exactly redoing the original ten, just changing the names and a few minor plot points. Instead of a French circus family, it is now a Jewish Vaudeville family. The two lead characters are not acrobats, but dancers. In some ways, I am finding this new version a bit more interesting. The whole subplot about getting the Tsaritsa back to Earth alive was refreshing. Generally, I would call this a pleasant diversion. I read it while on an airplane, but it could be a beach read just as easily.



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My Review of Louis XIV: A Royal Life

Louis XIV: A Royal Life by Olivier Bernier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a good book about a remarkable man. So while it is in some respects a hagiography, there is at least some justification for that. This covers the life and times of The Sun King from birth to death, and he did live a long and eventful life. The way he tamed the French nobility was masterful, and he did have a good grasp of international politics. But I think that he did best when he had advisors he listened to, such as Colbert. It looks like by the end he started believing his own press and was convinced he knew better than everyone else, and that is not always the case. Was the War of Spanish Succession really a net positive for France? I think you can make the argument that it was not, and it is an example of where Bernier argues a bit too hard that Louis made the right call. And from an historical point of view, this regime is the great example of absolutist monarchy, and while it was successful at the time, it helps set the stage for the Revolution against his descendant Louis XVI.



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My Review of Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year

Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year by Steve Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you are a Beatles fan, this is a fun read. 1966 was the year they did their final tour before retreating to the studio. And it was the year they recorded Revolver,l which is in the running as their finest album. And of course by the end of the year they are starting on what is conventionally regarded as their masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think these days most people don’t understand just how much was packed into a year for this band. They would record and release two albums a year! Today, a band might take two years to record an album, and release one every 2-3 years. So a lot happened in 1966.
If you are a casual fan of The Beatles you might not get that much out of this, but for the serious fan I think this is a good read, and can help tide us over until Mark Lewissohn finishes Volume 2 of his obsessively detailed history.



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