Rev. 2001-03-29, 2003-07-27, 2006-04-11, 2007-08-03, 2008-07-27, -10-03, -11-13,
2009-02-15, -03-19, -04-30, -07-14, -08-19, -10-11, -10-26, 2010-01-15, -08-17,
2011-03-11, -14, -06-26, -11-03, 2012-06-18, -07-12, -09-24, -12-06

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Places in or near Dallas

Ft. Worth Water Garden
It may seem a bit ironic to start a list of favorite places in Dallas with pictures from the Water Garden in Ft. Worth, but that is Dallas' loss. Dallas has a downtown garden park* by the same architect, Phillip Johnson, but it is second rate for a number of reasons, while the FW park is a perfect example. Wiki [*The triangular Thanksgiving Square with a spiral form chapel, the park being open limited hours with lots of rules and pretentions http://www.thanksgiving.org/ ] The Water Garden has six parts, two of which are shown. and described below. Those not shown include what I call the mountain, the desert, the flower garden, and the greenway. All are linked by concrete ridges running around the park.

Water Garden in Ft. Worth, Canyon

Water walls behind cypress in quiet valley
This is the Canyon which as a rushing stream entering at the top. The bottom is reached by a series of steps coming down from the left, which are tricky to walk because the water is moving sideways under them. At the bottom, because of the rushing water, the sounds of the city are absent. The Quiet Place is a wet walls submerged area with a shallow pool in the center and these trees growing around the edge reached by stairs between wet walls with a quiet rush of water at the corners.
The Ft. Worth Water Garden is located at the west end of downtown, limited parking is usually available weekdays right next to the park. [2004-09-06  Tragically, 6 people have died in the Water Garden.  Two died several years ago when one of the very tall "moonlight" standards fell on them.  Four died earlier this year in the pool shown above left.  The tragedy is that both were caused by human disregard for design.  The tower fell because it was made of Corten self rusting steel which is decorative but must be kept reasonably dry.  Someone decided the bolts at the bottom were not a feature and filled in around them with dirt and plants that were watered regularly until the column broke through.  When the four people drowned, the pool did not look like it does in the photo, with the water arching into shallow water, but was full to the top.  So instead of 2.5 feet the water was about 8 feet deep.  One person fell in, another tried to save her and was pulled down to the recirculation intake, guys jumped in and were held in.  Trained rescuers almost suffered the same fate due to strong suction to the grill at on the bottom.  It turns out that the sensor that was supposed to keep the level down had never been replaced after failure, the original instructions were lost somewhere, the experienced people had retired or lost their jobs in the economy and the current operator had had no training.] [After being closed for some time, the park reopened more than a year ago.  Visitors are greeted by warning signs at each entrance. While, fortunately from my view, the threatened guard rail around the lower pit and hand rail on the steps down was not installed, the upper rim can be blockaded and a guard grid was installed below a raised water level in the pit. So now the water falls a much smaller distance than in the picture, the water can't get as deep if fill failure occurs, and an adult can climb out of the pit while standing on the grid with the suction is far below.  2008-10-03, edit 2011-03-14]


Dallas Water

Dallas has used water features as part of its architecture for decades and I have photographed several without being delighted enough to put them up.  But two recent encounters including a new fountain are shown here.
The fountain at the right is in the center the Baylor Hospital complex, which I have visited too often recently, and obviously has a number of nozzles around it that I have not seen in action, but this center throws up a continuous column of water that due to variations in wind, etc., collapses back and gets splatted by the rising shaft.

Below is the new Belo park in downtown Dallas at Griffen between Main and Commerce across from the federal buildings where Gigi worked. It is one of four much trumpeted urban parks laid in now that the empty buildings have been converted to luxury living and ....
This one has sitting areas, grass, dog parking is allowed and this area of water coming out of the ground [also seen in the county plaza and in kids parks for safer playing than pools.] As shown in the montage, three arcs of nozzles produce a curved curve of water that kids and some adults love playing with - as shown in the upper insert. Normally, one fountain is up and the other two are putting out in a low arc - insert on right. The relative locations are visible in the main photo - the right arc just peeking in. Griffin is behind the camera. 2012-06-18


The Mustangs, Las Colinas
This sculpture is located in the center of 3 office buildings just off 114 between Texas Stadium and the North Entrance to DFW Airport. They represent a small family group of mustang horses running down to and crossing a creek. Web site of Mustangs Sculpture
 Wikipedia article Mustangs_at_Las_Colinas
Image of Mustangs of Las Colinas from Wikipedia (cropped, click to enlarge)
What takes the sculpture beyond the ordinary is threefold. First, the huge horses have character and are alive in their running, but are placed where people can get at them. Second, the "creek" is wholly abstract, but it evolves out of the concrete and brick structure of the square and the horses make it alive for a moment. Third, there are small fountains at the feet of the horses in the water, that make the spray of the feet hitting the water.
Beginning July 30, 2012, when the DART Orange Line extends to the Las Colinas Convention Center and the 503 circulator bus begins operation, it will be possible to visit the site without a car.
Pioneer Plaza cattle drive from top of hillDallas has a long downtown bronze sculpture, near the convention center, of longhorn cattle coming down a hill to a creek with a several cowboys guiding their way. The main reason for the sculpture was to prevent a hotel from being built on the site. [2011 The city is now building a Convention Center Hotel in the area.] Supposedly, it honors the cowboy in Texas history, but until it was built, Dallas had ignored and buried any connection with the West and cattle, leaving that to Ft. Worth and using a far more proper symbol being the flying red horse of an oil company overhead. The cattle sculpture is oversized, but has little energy and the creek is simply real, with a falls and plants growing beside it. While claiming to be the longest bronze sculpture in the world, from the nose of the front steer to the tail of the last, it was supposed to be bigger, but the additional cattle exited from a lack of funds.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Plaza  2012-07-12

Sayings & Quotes

"This, milord, is my family's ax. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation ... but is this not the nine-hundred-year-old ax of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good ax, y'know. Pretty good. Will you tell me if this is a fake, too?" Dwarf king explaining traditional symbols to Vimes, p282-3, The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett.
[Old joke - "My family owns George Washington's axe.  Of course we had to put a new head on it a couple of times, and replace the handle 5 or 6 times when it broke."  But Pratchett makes tradition real within the story.]

"Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny.  Free men pull in all kinds of directions.  It's the only way to make progress." p. 268,  The Truth, Terry Pratchett, the tyrant is speaking.

"I  . . . got to be really sorry . . . ?"
"Yah, I know." Mr. Tulip looked up, his eyes red-rimmed, his face puffy.  "I reckon . . . to be that sorry, you got to take a ---ing good run at it."
"So . . . how long have I got?"
Death looked up at the strange stars.
"Yeah . . . well, maybe that'll ---ing do it.  Maybe there won't be no more world to go back to by then."
"You sayin' . . . I could be alive before I was born?"
"Maybe I can find me and kill myself." said Mr. Tulip, staring at the sand.
p. 246,  The Truth, Terry Prachett  [In his books, DEATH is personified, always speaks in capitals, and has a granddaughter, Susan.]

"The jockeys were thrown up like confetti and landed in their saddles, and their spindly long-legged transportation skittered its way out onto the track." Rat Race by Dick Francis.

"I love you. But I lust after and covet so much more than your body. I wanted to possess the power of your eyes, the way they see form and beauty that isn't even there yet and draw it up out of nothing into the solid world. I wanted to own the honor of your heart.... I wanted your courage and serenity. I wanted, I suppose, your soul, and that was too much to want." Miles Vorkosigan apologizing to the widow Ekaterin after telling everyone but her that he wanted her for his Lady. A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold.



I can hardly claim uniqueness here, since many of these authors are quite popular and have a bunch of books,
but maybe you haven't run into them and could be interested.

Fiction (FACTUAL)


Michelle Sagara

Michelle has written a lot of stuff, but the series I have read through all have titles starting with "Cast In" the first being "Cast in Shadow", seven total as of entry date, and all enclosed as "The Chronicles of Elantra" Elantra being the semi-feudal city-state with magic, several distinct species with different powers (and wings) include the ruling Emperor Dragon. The main character is a young female police officer Private Kaylin Neya who has magical healing skills, but who also gains enormous prestige because of her designation as Chosen and Lord (noble not religious) during interactions with the most powerful species who appear as fire breathing, roaring humans but can transform to huge flying dragons. During the books she grows in age a few years, but her biography is detailed in replays during encounters with people in it. The books are 450 or so pages and document her days in minute detail. She has a male sidekick/partner/almost lover, Severn, several other cops of higher rank but her most critical interactions are with 4 of the Dragons. 2012-03-20


Terry Pratchett
What I like The offbeat humor and the offbeat characters are great. Diskworld is a totally fictional place that strongly resembles Britain and other parts of the Earth, while being populated with werewolves, witches, zombies, trolls, real dwarfs, and nasty elves along side people and put upon policemen. DEATH is portrayed in most of the later stories (speaking in CAPITALS) and his granddaughter has a couple of her own. The stories are mostly very funny satire of government, universities, fantasy writing, and life. There are actually several thru lines - a group of stories about twitchy witches, the group about DEATH and his family, a group that mostly deals with the Watch guards, a group focused on religion and a group that deals mostly with the wizards (and Wizzard) of Unseen University of magic, although people met in one group are likely to show up in another.  The more recent books seem more focused and telling more of a satirical story rather than being scattershot setups for jokes or satire.  http://www.lspace.org/about-terry/index.html  Quotes above 1, 2, 3
Where to start Guards, Guards is a very beginning of Ankmorpork's Night Watch.. Thief of Time jumps in with both feet. While each line is in order, the various lines intertwine.
Outside Diskworld are several children's stories, most notably three in the Bromeliad Trilogy, which tells the story of 4 inch tall nomes that live Outside and in The Store and eventually find they must escape there and that they came to Earth on a space ship 15,000 years before.  Gentle humor and a lot of people interaction stuff.
Charlaine Harris
What I like  I recently discovered her Sookie Stackhouse series [now 2011 incredibly popular] In her titles the word Dead* appears (like 'Dead Until Dark')  I read the first and last [at the time] in the series and then went back to read them in order which is neater. If you are upset by werewolves and vampires and violence and a good dose of sex in modern northern Louisiana (Katrina messes up the business prospects of the vampires), you can skip this series.  Sookie is a telepath, the only one she knows at first, in a world where vampires have "come out of the coffin" since the development of artificial blood by the Japanese. She gets deeply involved with the vampire world, taking several as lovers because she can't read their minds during sex, and solving crimes, meanwhile discovering Weres (werewolves, weretigers, werepanthers) and Fairies that haven't come out yet, while living the life of a Wal-Mart shopping barmaid - her boss turning out to be just a were; he can choose what he wants to be.  Found in fantasy & science fiction if shelved separately from fiction. *except "Dead over Heels" which is in another series.** 2008-06-24
Where to start Dead Until Dark is the first and I think reading them in order and thus not having to guess at relationships mentioned in later books would be best. [Having now read them all, yes, it is better to read them in order 2008-07-08]
What Else Ms. Harris has 3 additional mystery series with women leads: Lily Bard, Angela Teagarden, and Harper Connelly.  Each series has its own sexual tension. List with short descriptions  http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/20U73O6V31WEY
 Harper was struck by lighting as a teenager and can locate bodies and see their moment of death.  She and her step-brother, raised in rotten conditions, travel around doing that, to the skepticism of police - Grave appears in the titles. (1st - Grave Sight)
 Angela lives in a small town in Georgia and gets involved in crimes, much like Miss Marple, except she gets attacked and has sex, and doesn't just talk about her quirky neighbors, but interacts with them. (1st - Real Murders)
 Lily Bard chose to come to Shakespeare (which is in each title, Shakespeare's Landlord), a small town in southern Arkansas, in part because of her last name, after a horrendous rape and torture where she killed the torture boss and endured huge publicity.  She is into muscle building and karate.  She recognizes and becomes involved with an ex-policeman whose affair with a fellow cop's wife ended on TV when the husband shot his wife in front of him.  She has to cope with hidden killers and personal threats as well as good-old-boy attitudes and unwanted male presumption. All of these have enough of a through line that finding the first book is a better idea. 2008-07-27
Tamora Pierce
  has written three quartets and a pair featuring young women and men wanting to be knights and the two quartets involving those having magical power in an old style world. These are aimed at young women and may be filed under Youth, etc. at library.  As should be obvious, I like books by and about independent women with positive stories. These are fun to read. My library has the books separate while the Science Fiction Book Club sells combined editions. The first written and in order is Song of the Lioness which includes Alanna: The First Adventure, In the hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant. Alanna starts the first book as an 11 year old girl determined to enter training to be a knight so she disguises herself as a boy and swaps places with her twin brother who wants to be a wizard and is physically inept even though his father wants him to be a knight.  The books follow her through the steps of Page, Squire, Knight and further adventures.  She finds friends whose affection she doesn't understand and deals with opponents and lovers.  The second quartet deals with Immortals - long lived fantastic creatures like griffins - that come back to fight, presumably with the Lioness and the king involved - but is primarily the story of a young woman, Diane, seen in the first and next series that was oppressed, but gained the ability to shape change to an animal. She ends up traveling to the land of the Gods where the Immortals have been banished and meeting her deceased mother and god father.  The third is under the the title Protector of the Small with the individual titles being First Test, Page, Squire, and Knight -  ten years after the Lioness, a young girl, Keladry, wants to train to be a knight but is only admitted on probation, which boys never are.  She attracts a variety of fellow student boys, shows battle leadership skills and overcomes her weaknesses in an extremely determined way.  She is driven by forecasts of her doom (very realistic deaths) to defeat an evil mage of the opposing country while gaining the attention of strong men.  Adding to the fun is that she adopts animals who have enhanced understanding because of the gal in the second series then help her in battle (like a squadron of 2 dozen sparrows that travel on her shoulders, her dog, and her horse) and defends other weak pages with her fists.  2009-06-06  The pair of (bigger) books Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen involve the daughter of Allana and the kingdom's spy master, who is kidnapped and taken to the Copper Isles (think Japan) where the old patron God of the kingdom tells her she will go home if protects the two daughters of the family where she has been enslaved. These two are half of the old native royalty and half of the conqueror's royalty and will fulfill legend of restoration. While there are Gods who manifest themselves and a crow who turns into a man, most of the environment is rooted in practical reality and she stays as spymaster, marrying the crow/man, after her father finds her.
Completely separate are two sets of four books that deal with 3 girls and a boy who are brought together because they have odd magic they must learn to control - weather, fire/metal, threads/fabric, and plants/growing. The conceit of the books is that there are two kinds of magic - academic where mages learn spells and apply them and ambient where the magic is in the materials and must drawn out.  Circle of Magic keeps the four together in four books that each focus a bit more on one of the group Sandry's, Tris's, Daja's, and Briar's Book are the titles. The next quartet The Circle Opens, has each traveling and acquiring their first student under the mage rules that a new mage is found with odd skills, the mage who finds them must train them if a mage in that specialty can't be found. These books are Magic Steps (dance pattern magic), Street Magic (stone power discovered in streets and a criminal group), Cold Fire (twins incidental to arson story) and Shatterglass (glass blowing plus lightning magic and a murder investigation.) 2009-08-19
Mercedes Lackey
What I like She has written a large number of books in several series.  One of two that I have enjoyed are Tales of the 500 Kingdoms  The Fairy Godmother, One Good Knight, Fortunes Fool, and The Snow Queen which posit a world where the Fairy Tale Tradition has force like gravity - defy it and you are likely to get hurt, so the stories involve people manipulating so the Tradition works in their favor. The four are loosely related. Caution - a couple of the books have a couple of pages with pretty realistic brief romance sex scenes.
Where to start The Fairy Godmother actually starts the series but One Good Knight is easier fun as it features a smart young princess, her nasty step mother/queen, a pair of talking dragons and unusual Champions
What I like  The second is the much longer Valdemar series which comes in sets of three or four (like Arrow's Flight, Arrow's Fall, Arrow of the Queen) and deal with a kingdom where some of the people have special powers that have to be trained.  The various encounters people have with discovering their talents and the nobility of the battles without excess gore is nice.  As with most of the authors, no wimpy women, no explicit sex.
Where to start Pick up one book and look at the timeline published in the front which shows all the sets and how they relate to each other.  Pick the first book in a set.  Early sets are a bit more spooky and the later ones get outside Valdemar. Take your choice.
Anne Perry


has written four series of mysteries plus added stand alone books.  All involve detailed interaction with the social limitations and living conditions of late 1800's
  I have read most of the three series set in slightly different spans of the Victorian era in England and passed on those set in World War One. The third series uses minor characters from the first two and places them in  crime scene settings at Christmas time with a rather forced theme of redemption in each case. The quality of the stories vary, in part depending on the characters chosen. 2011-11-03
 The longer series starts about 1850 with The Cater Street Hangman and immediately involves Charlotte, a young Victorian Society woman who is too outspoken for proper marriage prospects, and the police detective, Thomas Pitt, who investigates murders on her doorstep.  Society considers police to be servants to use the back entrance and meddlers who can be bribed away. In the series they marry and crime investigations involve her sister who remarries below her station also. Pitt gets promoted and threatened.
 The shorter series starts somewhat later and in the first book, Face of a Stranger, William Monk awakes after a carriage accident with no idea of even his name, but it becomes obvious that in his employment as a police detective he is brilliant, abusive, and friendless.  Concealing his memory loss, he is thrown back into investigating, faking it, pulling in fragments, and revealing the problem on occasion. Each book involves investigating the crime and then the court trial of those accused, fairly or unfairly. Monk meets a Crimean War nurse and protégé of Florence Nightingale, who has come back when her family faces scandal and loss of position and wants to reform the degraded position of nurses in England.  They conflict with each other for several books while also solving problems and dealing with the lower side of life in London before marrying.
 The second series in particular grew to bug me because of endings pulled out of a hat that were not justified by details earlier in the story that were fair to the reader.  The most egregious [hey, I get to use that word!] was the revelation of the murderer being one of a pair of older homosexuals covering a previous murder when he kills his partner and himself but all the mentions in the story are of their not communicating. 2011-11-03

Patricia Briggs

  has written a number of books, but a series I recently enjoyed and which my wife is liking as she reads it, features a Charlaine Harris like character, Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson who like Sookie is a lone oddity caught between supernatural forces, in this case a "walker" who can transform to a coyote as she wishes.  She was fostered by a werewolf clan in Montana led by the national Alpha werewolf and now lives in eastern Washington state making her living as a auto mechanic in a shop sold to her by a "goblin". Living next door to the local Alpha werewolf whom she is beginning to love while her teen were crush, who is hundreds of years old, also shows up.  It is a time of change and the fae have come out, the werewolves are thinking of it, and the vampires don't want to, so dissident members of each will kill to have their way. Done with a smart touch with interpersonal relationships complicated by variant species and small town activities of ordinary kinds infested with these odd people and their unique conflicts. Mild sex.  Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed available together in Preying for Mercy from the Science Fiction Book Club. 2008-11-13  Additional books about once a year
Where to start Moon Called starts series, helps if read in order.
Lois McMaster Bujold
What I like Miles Vorkosigan, "star" of a long series of books that begin with his unique parents meeting before he was born and following him to the birth of his own first children.  Good sense of humor and taste through all the books.
Where to start  Memory drops you into the middle of the series without being too confusing. Depending on your mood you can go backward in the series for more youthful adventures or forward for more mature books, but eventually either should read Shards of Honor (also in Cordelia's Honor with the next one) which includes the meeting of his parents. I like all the stories for different reasons - a good sense of humor, human relationships and doubts in Miles and his fellows, and a lot of nice strong women (including his mother, who ends a civil war while going to rescue his artificial womb.) http://www.dendarii.com/  Quote above.
Anne McCaffrey
What I like Anne has written a huge number of books covering several different groups of characters and settings and the books usually involve very little violence and good adventures against circumstance with romance rather than overt sex. One amazing point is that she has written different books in the same series with different authors. Stirling and Moon have since become authors I like on their own.  Not all the series are of equal quality and some are youth books although these are pretty good reads.  The Pern series has a couple of dozen entries ranging from short stories to extensive novels.  [Her son has started writing the Pern books and is maintaining quality. 2008-07-27].
Where to start Dragon Riders of Pern or The Ship Who Sang.  Pern is a planet settled long before the story time where small flying lizards were bred up as dragons to carry men, chew firerock and flame Thread which falls for years destroying all vegetation, then vanishes for a couple of centuries. The stories are personality tales of the varying factions in the rather feudal style society. The dragons can talk mentally with their riders and travel through space and (eventually) time.  The Ship stories are science fiction of a technology where crippled infants are given technology support to run Brainships (and Stations and Plants) and live for a very long time while partnered with various mobile partners called Brawn.  McCaffrey wrote the connected short stories that make up Sang then wrote four more novel length books each with a different co-author and about different ships. 2009-08-19
What Else Acorna series (6 plus 3 new ones about her children) involves a two legged individual raised by humans with a healing unicorn horn who later finds she is part of a remote species and then is an outsider at home because of her human raising.  Power Line series involves workers on an mega-corporation's power system;  I didn't finish the first book I found.  Freedom series involves forced colonization of prisoners of an alien space race who are protected by another species and carry out a rebellion.

Dick Francis

What I like

These several dozen mystery books have a pattern of a male protagonist somehow involved with horse racing [Francis was an important jockey in England] who is dragged into an adventure that involves only a moderate amount of violence but usually some desperate effort to escape a risk to life or deal with the limits. Each book is different enough to not be predictable. Most books involve a mildly offbeat love/sex relationship. Quote

Where to start

It is interesting to watch Francis develop as a writer by reading his early books compared to his later ones, but I think his later book The Edge set on a train across Canada is a great place to start, milder than some, but well written and set in the horse world that Francis started in. Shattered is the 2000 book and is set in a glassblowers studio. My Review

What else

Francis has usually come out with a new book in late summer, but Shattered is the last. [Well, he said it was the last, after his wife died, but has come out with another going back to his original detective character. 2007-08-03]

 Not so popular but interesting

  Carrie Vaughn has ten books in the Kitty Norville series as of 2012. All the book titles start with Kitty.  Kitty is a young female werewolf converted in a vicious attack who did community radio before conversion and continues, almost accidentally turning her Midnight Hour music show into a popular talk show after a guest talks about werewolf fears.  She "comes out" as a werewolf, gets in conflict with her pack leader, leaves town and does the show remotely while having other adventures. 2009-02-15
Where to Start Kitty and the Midnight Hour is the first and others build on the conflicts there.
  I enjoyed  Laurie R. King's, The Beekeeper's Apprentice which was recommended by a friend.  It begins with a mid-teen precocious girl, Mary Russell, almost stepping on a 'retired' Sherlock Holmes in 1915 while reading a book and walking in a field.  When she shows powers of observation that rival his, telling him what he is doing there, he becomes friendly and eventually takes her on as apprentice and then partner. Seven more books in the series A Monstrous Regiment of Women, A Letter of Mary, The Moor, O Jerusalem, Justice Hall, The Game, Locked Rooms 2009-02-15  Having now read all the books, they are remarkable in their writing and creativity. The Moor ties into Hound of the Baskervilles, The Game connects to Rudyard Kipling's Kim which I downloaded and am reading for the first time, and Locked Rooms includes Dashiell Hammett as a character.  There is a second story series by King set in modern San Francisco, with a female gay homicide detective, A Grave Talent, To Play the Fool, With Child, Night Work and a final book Art of Detection that sort of connects the two series. Also good.  2009-03-19
  John Moore has written several tongue in cheek books that end with A Fate Worse Than Dragons and bend the fairy tale world pretty severely such as "when you slay the dragon, you have to marry the princess, even if you thought you were in a different kingdom", a princess who derails an arranged marriage by arranging her own kidnapping, and the bread making merchant devoted to sliced bread who, handsome as he is, isn't good enough for nobility.  2009-04-30
  Kristin Cashore, has produced an impressive first novel, Graceling, which creates a land of seven kingdoms with a genetic variation where people with different colors in each of their eyes have a Grace which makes them uniquely skilled in some area, which may be swimming, math or, apparently in the case of the heroine, combat. She kills and punishes for the king, her uncle, but has established an organization that rescues oppressed people.  She meets a man from another kingdom who seems as skilled as she.  Then life gets complicated and the adventures wide ranging. Emotionally complicated and interesting 2009-07-14
  Jody Lynn Nye has done The Unexpected Apprentice and in April 2009 A Forthcoming Wizard as well as many other books.  These two books feature a kingdom where magic works and has species we consider mythical: dwarves, goblins, elves, smallfolk, unicorns, dragons.  A point of the story is that they were all created by magic - except possibly elves -  from humans who distorted life.  A half size "race", smallfolk, produces a girl who runs away from an arranged marriage when her whole family is killed and goes to take up her dead brother's apprentice offer with a mage.  That leads to involvement in a great expedition when she can handle a book of life that burns others. The first book ends when they recover the book.  The second covers return of the book to its storage site against people who want the power of the book to remove the special races.  The book is fun because the girl is neat and determined as she encounters new stuff while kicking herself for being naive and because the social interactions with her are varied.  2009-07-14, -08-19
  Rather strange because they are cartoonish/camp in many ways are the Betsy the Vampire Queen series by MaryJanice  Davidson starting with Undead and Unwed and all having Undead as first word of title. Written very tongue in cheek and set in Minneapolis with what I take to be a Valley Girl outlook, Betsy was bitten in an attack and converted to a vampire, but turns out to the foretold Queen of the Vampires with powers over others and powers they don't have - like not drinking blood every day and being able to go out in sunlight and hold religious artifacts. Has great and graphically described sex with her 1000 year consort and lusts for shoes.  Turns out she has a step-sister who is the daughter of a stylish female Satan who possessed her stepmother for a year until an infant baby was too much for her and she fled back to Hell.  The daughter/sister is rebelling by being extra good and a faithful church goer. 2009-04-20
  In a different category are the Killer books by Sheryl J. Anderson starting with Killer Heels.  Her character is Molly Forrester a writer for a fashion/life style magazine in New York City who discovers the body of a coworker, gets involved with the detective investigating, solves the crime and writes a story which gets people asking for her help in the following books as the relationship waxes and wains.  Her NYC life with her two best friends is a bit of a culture shock of eating out and buying name brand clothes and that is saying something since I read the stuff above. 2009-04-20

What I like

S.M.Stirling has written a Brainship book with McCaffrey and a related book on his own, but he is now best known for three related trilogies.  I like the first two a lot, but having just (2009-10-11) finished the last book of the nine, I am unhappy and won't read them if he adds more.  The two sets that I really like I call the Island and Dies trilogies:
 The Island In The Sea of Time/Against the Tide of Years/On the Oceans of Eternity trilogy takes the Island of Nantucket and the Coast Guard sail training ship permanently to 1250 BC and explores their adaptation, encounters, and effects on people of that time with high technology but a weak base with small population. The solutions and kinds of people presented are interesting. The concerns are survival and  worry about will happen to the future because of the changes they are making, both in introducing technology and killing influential people from their own history books. It has an optimistic, but open ended conclusion.
 The Dies the Fire/The Protector's War/A Meeting in Corvallis trilogy that inverts the speculation in Island and posits a total instant change to the entire Earth at the moment when the Island leaves - all electricity and high temp chemistry - guns & engines - no longer work.  Planes plunge to earth and cars crash and millions die from lack of food and disease.  The survivors go back to swords and bows and feudal type clans and enclaves.  The first book starts with the triggering events and follows a gal with one group who believe in Wicca and a guy with another group who become horse cavalry as they work toward each other through Idaho and Oregon and a really nasty feudal former professor who has taken over Portland.  The second book adds a new factor with some survivors escaping from England and adding to the mix and develops the conflicts between the various surviving groups and adds personality conflicts. The third book matures the family/clan relations and a more formal warfare, coming to final violent but then optimistic conclusion. 2006-04-11,  A third series has begun with children of the two leaders walking east to see what has happened to the rest of the country. Not as interesting to my mind. 2007-08-03 [edited 2009-10-11]
  The third trilogy of The Sunrise Lands/The Scourge of God/The Sword of the Lady is much less interesting and effective for me, the third book in particular.  The trilogy involves the next generation of the Dies trilogy taking off on a mystically driven quest to recover a sword found on the odd version of Nantucket that replaced the modern version that went back to 1250 BC in the Island trilogy.  Problems I have are that it is far too long - one book at the pace of the first trilogies would have covered it, it is too episodic - and the human interactions too often involve little set piece cliché's, especially of male-female interaction.  While the first two trilogies are basically science fiction - change one major aspect and see what happens - and even state explicitly that you can take the Wicca spiritual outbursts as human berserker behavior, in the last, and especially the last book, you must buy into the idea that this is a battle between God/gods and Satan/demon.  People speak with gods' voices and the villains have miracle powers of recovery and killing.  And the third book and the trilogy have great gaps in narrative and logic.  The biggest narrative hole is planning a trip to the east coast over the frozen Great Lakes, getting to a certain point and discovering that the frozen lakes are not in any way smooth, which their advisors should have known, and then suddenly being in Maine two months later saying "hard trip."  Related to that is the idea that it is a wonderful thing to go further north from SW Wisconsin to loop around Lower Michigan. And the location given in Maine doesn't work well with the logic of the story although it is not far from the river, it is hard to believe that Moorish pirates would consider Miami, New York, Boston and the backside of Maine to be equal choices to be available for the Satanists to use in Maine. But nearly as hard to deal with is that one person, having traveled from the Midwest to Boston and back, then goes to Oregon and travels back across the U.S. with the others, unless one totally buys into the Satan/God(s) battle situation.  One interesting thing Stirling does is deal with the mixed beliefs of the traveling crew and the people they meet - Catholics must cope with the rise of pagans.  Yet, even there, when his heroine finally, after all these years, sees the hero in his rites, we get a cliche scene of reaction, not something well worked out.  Sad.

Where to start

Start with Island in the Sea of Time unless you have a strong dislike of stories that tinker with the past, in this case so distant there is less hassle than proposing the South won the Civil War or Hitler won WWII.  Dies the Fire is a modern, "what if ..." disaster story taken to some logical consequences.  Mild warning: two main characters in Island are lesbians (PG) and the heroine in Dies is a Wicca (witch) where mystical things are believed, but wiggle your nose magic does not happen.

What else

In school we learned anachronism is something in fiction like glasses on a Roman. Both anachronistic references I enjoyed finding in Dies the Fire are literary and due to the delay in writing them. The Event occurs in mid May 1998. One book referred to, Seymour's The Forgotten Arts & Crafts, is used to cope with primitive conditions, but was only published as a single volume in 2000 being two books before then.  And reference is made to Harry Potter's Sorting Hat as a way of making choices, but the first Potter book was just barely out in England summer of '98 and it would hardly be a common reference on the U.S. west coast
Edward Marston [Keith Miles]
What I Like Marston has written at least three series of murder mystery books set in very specific historical times with lots of historical references - perhaps sounding a bit encyclopedia. The settings are Domesday England right after 1066, theater in Elizabethan England about 1600, and Victorian England about 1851.  Two of them I like, but the third, which I might prefer since it is closer to one of my past interests, I dislike.   All three have modern language and attitudes (I believe) imposed, but the first and last are more fun than the middle, which has bickering lead characters. 
 The older setting, starting with The Wolves of Savernake, involves a team of royal commissioners who travel to various castles to resolve problems found by the first commissioners collecting ownership data for William the Conqueror so he could collect taxes.  In the stories someone has either just been killed or is soon killed, complicating their task of resolving conflicts over ownership.  The lead Norman commissioner travels with his Saxon woman who later becomes his wife, a law clerk who was educated to be a monk but did not and gets married part way through the series, and two monks - commissioner and scribe - who are mocked at times.  The marriage bed is used enthusiastically and is the site of discussions. 
 The latter series, starting with The Railroad Detective, features a relationship between an independent young woman, daughter of an early beating victim, and the highly educated former lawyer who wanted to deal more with crime.  Each story involves a crime connected with railroads, usually murder, and he involves the woman in logical ways as they become more involved, but there is nothing beyond kissing and holding hands.  A more rough hewn sergeant shares his investigations and an overbearing commander is a foil.
 The middle series features the stage manager/prompter of a theater company who copes with temperamental company owners with some nasty attitudes while encountering murder.  Too grubby for me. 2010-08-17

Other Books I Like
These are several additional books I have liked, hoping you might look at them and enjoy. Most are in libraries.

David Gerrold, Trouble with Tribbles, the whole book as an e-book http://www.benbellabooks.com/gerrold/Tribbles.pdf great story of writing for TV and about writing and editing in general.  Bought it a long time ago and reread it when I found it on the internet.  2008-07-08

Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling If you don't know about Harry, you must have been asleep for several years. If you haven't read the books, you have missed a bunch of fun, especially the first three. I find the fourth a bit thick both in pages and fun quotient. Start with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first one. [2011-03-11: The remaining 3 are even thicker and get a bit heavier as people die and emotional involvement peaks.  I just reread the whole set from beginning to end and find it amazing how many forward references there are - according to legend she outlined the whole series before writing.]

Elizabeth Moon has written over a dozen books, three with Anne McCaffrey where I met her. I went looking for other books by her. I have enjoyed many books: Hunting Party, Sporting Chance, Winning Colors form one group with Heris Serran o being the lead female, who mixes with Brun Meager and is helped to victor by Esmay Sueza who becomes the lead in Once a Hero, Rules of Engagement, Change of Command, and Against the Odds that involves Brun as victim first then as hero.  These books all  feature the encounters of several young women as they progress in the military and government of their space traveling society. Five more books - Trading in Danger, Marque and Reprisal, Engaging the Enemy, Command Decision, Victory Conditions - involve the adventures of a young woman in space trading and hunting down people who attacked her home.  There is also a 5 book series I have not sampled Legend of Paksenarrion  http://www.sff.net/people/Elizabeth.Moon/  update 2009-10-26 And now that I have read three of them, I find them fascinating and wrenching because they involve torture and a total shunning from society for a cause that is not her fault.

Eric Flint's book 1632 is a neat book that takes a chunk of West Virginia and moves it to the middle of the 30 Years War, where the fire power of American blue collar workers and American attitudes make a change in history. Nice (with a few satiric touches) exploration of effects of horrors of that war.  2003-07 There is a second book, 1633, the Baltic War which is good, if a bit more didactic (lecturing).  There is to be a series, the next being 1634, . [2004-09]  Well, unfortunately, 1634 turned out to be about Galileo and my wife got about 25 pages into it and quit and I got about 10 pages before I quit.  Much of the offhand humor and personalities of 1632 were missing and it quickly became apparent that all the new people being introduced were going to have a story line away from what was left behind in 1633.  1633 and 1634 have coauthors.

Factual Books

I have recently worked my way through two well written books that intensely cover considerably different topics
Eating the Sun : How plants power the planet  by Oliver Morton is a popular science book that is certainly not simple but also does not extend into the detailed numbers.  This sentence from page 399, "The ideal is to feed acetate to the algae at a rate that keeps their respiration high enough for lots of hydrogenase-powering photosynthesis ...." is complex but well supported by earlier information, yet we are not given the numbers on "at a rate" or "high enough" that a scientific paper would require.  In three distinct sections, he covers the billions of years of evolution that created modern plants, exploring in detail both the development the chemistry of photosynthesis and the discovery of that in recent times. The three sections are framed on the span of a man (carbon, energy, & light), on the span of the planet (beginnings, fossils, forests, grass), and the span of a tree (humanity, energy). Well mixed in are the historical people and their conflicts as they worked out the details. Along the way, he makes clear the great complexity of converting sunlight into sugars and oxygen from elements of the atmosphere and ground - including making clear that O2 from plants comes from breaking down the water, not the CO2. 2012-09-24

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul : Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry also extends back from the key event of Williams being ejected from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and making his way to what became Rhode Island. Considerable history of the religious battles battles of England and the rigidity that resulted both in the English (Anglican) church and the Massachusetts (Puritan) church that demanded a different conformity but in turn convinced Williams that using the State to enforce religion was improper both for the state and the church. In one framing statement, he felt that the church should not be able to use state criminal punishments for the first four of the ten commandments on the relationship with God and the state should not be linked to religious punishments (conformity and excommunication) for the social violations of the rest (murder, adultery, etc.) 2012-09-24


Joy Hakim has written two series of books. I have not read A History of US but I have read all three of  The story of science which is published by the Smithsonian.  Both are aimed at young people but I was especially impressed at the broad level of education coverage on virtually every page.    The first I encountered was the third in the series The story of science : Einstein adds a new dimension 509 H155S 2007; the other two being  Newton at the center 509 H155N 2005 and Aristotle leads the way YA 509 H155A 2004.  As the titles make clear science is presented in three wide bands from the Greeks through classical physics to modern physics. Having recently been proofreading middle and high school text books I recognize the multimedia, short attention span, approach, but Hakim uses the various margin notes, sidebars, and accent pages to fill in both higher and lower level information than the main chapters which are short - 2-4 pages, each mostly dealing with a single person or a small related group pursuing one scientific query.  There are 40 chapters and about 30 feature sections in 450 pages of Newton. I encountered a few odd errors (an American to Metric conversion gone bad) but also extended my knowledge in several areas, especially the Einstein book, even having read the next listed book not long ago.  2011-06-26

E=mc2 by David Bodanis takes on this formidable topic not as a biography of Einstein or explaining Relativity although both are brought in very nicely, but as a biography of the equation, going back to its forebears - explaining how E, m, and c came about, what led to Einstein's work and what has followed from it.  Bodanis enlivens his series of brief discussions with personality details that in some cases blocked progress for some years. He particularly points up women who did valuable work and were shut out by men who took credit and then denigrated them.  All very nicely written.  A few sentences made it much clearer to me why light goes a specific speed in the universe even sent from moving objects. 2011-03-14

The Forgotten Arts & Crafts by John Seymour is a combined volume (2000/2001 England/U.S.A.) of two books published in the 1980's which discusses in detail exactly the title topic.  Besides ordinary crafts like chair making, we find horse collar making and rarely mentioned skills  like growing the long straight willow pieces used for making baskets and traps, and coppicing and pollarding which are growing wood for canes and fences on stumps of hardwood trees.  Not much on glass which was not an craft but an industry from this book's point of view. 2006-04-11

Edwin Tunis has several related books including Frontier Living, Colonial Living, and Colonial Craftsmen which were first published in the 60's and 70's and reissued in 2000.  All the books have good basic descriptions and excellent drawings by Tunis. The Living books attempt to make the topic of historical crafts more lively by abandoning the infinitely complete catalog of variations at all locations and times for a narrative of changing place with time: 30 years in New England, 40 years in the South Atlantic Coast.  The Craftsmen book repeats material from the other two and adds more detail. While other crafts seem accurate to me compared against other sources, the coverage of glass has some serious flaws.  Craftsmen says glass is cooked at 12,000F which may be a typo, but while Craftsmen has an accurate description of spinning out the disk for crown glass, in the earlier Colonial Living he says the bubble is spun flat until the "front and back surfaces met and stuck together" which would guarantee bubbles and a real mess.  Craftsmen follows the correct description of crown glass with one of broad glass that has glass being flattened on a heated iron table in a fan shape - the bubble being cut lengthwise - which is a much older method.]

1491 is a factual book [by Charles C. Mann, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 2005] about the latest (2005) data about the history of tribes and kingdoms in North and South America before Columbus - millions of people, large settlement, and lots of modification of the environment.  It says that much of what has been reported in text books - small groups, lots of bison, heavy forest - was due to diseases killing off huge numbers of natives between 1492 and 1620 and that the easy defeat of Inca and Aztec by small European forces was due more to loss of 80-90% of population in the years before Pizzaro and Cortez arrived rather than awe or overwhelming tactics.
 Perhaps the most remarkable story to me is the detailed history of the translator to the Pilgrims, who ended up living with them. Mann relates the story, along with one set in Peru, even though it occurred long after 1492 because it is well documented and shows the effects on the native culture.  Tisquantum called Squanto in most textbooks, learned English because he was kidnapped in 1614 by a co-captain of John Smith of Jamestown fame and sold in Spain as a slave.  He escaped to England and was a kind of household curiosity for about five years and then got back to America, but hundreds of miles north of home.  Trying several times, walking and by boat, he finally got back to where he had lived - only to find it devastated.  Fishermen had been trading with the Indians [which is the term Mann uses as explained in an appendix] since about 1480, in 1501 captured natives in Maine, had a sword and rings made in Venice, and Champlain had come over with plans to set up colonies in 1606, only to find Cape Cod and Maine so crowded there was no space for a colony. Verrazzano, 1523, found the coastline densely populated.  When Tisquantum came back in 1619, there were almost no villages with living people within 40 miles of the shore for 250 miles after 3 years of disease and the village he had been living in Patuxet was gone.  Pilgrims set up shop on the site the following fall.  2008-10-03

The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved by Lawrence David Kusche is a valuable resource in the nonsense about the Triangle. Available in many libraries and on Amazon, it really tears the story to shreds and gives guidelines for looking at new claims - originally out in 1975  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermuda_Triangle#Larry_Kusche


E-mail to friend
 "I tend to alternate between reading a bunch of fiction and going through several related factual books (or at least non-fiction.) I was looking at the new book shelves at the Lakewood branch library and ended up with a pretty neat (to me) thin book that interleaved nicely with a fairly rational book on Glenn Beck.
The neat little book is "The Making of Evangelicalism : from revivalism to politics and beyond" by Balmer, Randall Herbert, Call Number: 270.82 B194M 2010. There are 3 copies in the Dallas Library system and I don't know if it is in accessible form. It is a 2010 publication of Baylor University Press and only runs 84 pages. He has written several other books on the history of Protestantism and on religion in politics.
What makes it neat for me is much clarity in talking about the changes in evangelical sects down through the years and helping me understand why the liberal/helpful/progressive church position I grew up in is ignored by Pentecostal churches (and reviled by Glenn Beck.) The book uses some large words from the precise terminology of theology but general gives them enough context or even exact definition to make sense possible without a dictionary. I had not understood there was two different versions of the millennial return of Christ and the differences have driven attitudes about whether social justice is worth doing. If Christ's return in immanent for the saved to be taken up before the millennium, why try to perfect the nation/earth for those to be left behind?
The book on Beck is "Common Nonsense, Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance" by Zaitchick, Alexander 320.52092 B393YZ 2010. I don't get to watch Beck because I don't have cable and if I chased him down on radio probably couldn't stand to listen to him based on my limited encounters with the tabloid propaganda mess that Fox News presents. But his weeping hysterics and paranoid attacks on those out to get the Heartland people he claims as his own are rooted in his limited beliefs, not just an act. The book also makes it clear that his Heartland has been redefined to leave out urban places like Chicago and his "communist, socialist, racist" attacks on "progressivism" are rooted in the extreme version of Mormonism of the dead authors he promotes (which are disavowed by normal Mormon leadership). Also his crying (and lying) confessions are part of the required church environment of Mormon services beyond the witnessing of other Pentecostal faiths.
Where the books intertwine most is at the discussion of the split between the evangelicals and the mainline, liberal churches in the latter part of the 19th century when the evangelicals turned from their social reforms of the mid-century which the author says changed with the shift from postmillennialism (Christ at the end of the millennium which we are now in) to premillennialism (Christ arriving before the millennium) taking over in the depressed attitudes at the end of the Civil War. The liberal churches took over the reform like women's rights and the evangelicals found such work worthless and threatening to the place of women in the church (not as leaders) and home and created the summer camps and enclosed environments of revivals.

Contact Mike Firth