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Just trying to make it, a day at a time…

A Review of Earth Alone

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 23, 2016

Earth Alone (Earthrise Book 1)Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Earth Alone had its moments, mostly toward the end, but it seems that many of the recent, new military sci fi novels I’ve been reading lately all seem to be written by authors who feel compelled to prove their military authenticity by being able to write the longest, most detailed, most stereotypical boot camp scenes of all time, and this book is at the top of the list of those types of these books. Essentially, this book is one big boot camp book with a little action thrown in over the last third of the book to justify calling it “military sci fi” so fans might actually like it. Otherwise it’s a waste of time, space, and effort. It just seems to me that after awhile, all boot camps start sounding exactly the same. You’ve got your bad ass drill sergeants, who all have to let their recruits know that they will be known as “God” while they are there, which becomes so damn original. The drill instructors can run 30 km runs one way and 30 km back without sweating while the recruits are dropping to the ground. Again stereotypes. You’ve got the wiseass recruits who refuse to follow the rules and either A) get in trouble themselves, or B) more likely, convince the “good” recruits to stupidly get involved with them for one night and get them in trouble with the authorities. Stereotype. The fighting, brawling, rules breaking. Brilliant. You’ve got the big, dumb, scared man-child scenario. The tough-as-nails, bad ass-but-hot female recruit who will kill you if you look at her twice. Quite often, but not always, the protagonist, the recruit is an intellectual, in our case, one who wants to be a military librarian. Hah! Little does he know. It’s all well and good. Maybe I would be less jaded and more accepting if it weren’t for the fact that about five other military sci fi books I’m reading at about the same time all involve having boot camp scenarios, all with similar stereotypical scenes. I just wonder if these authors just share the same boot camp software with each other and recycle it because none of it is original. It got old a long time ago. Sci fi authors, and military literature authors, have been doing this to death for decades. Since it’s well established that boot camp is hard, difficult, a bonding experience, blah, blah, can’t we just skip over it in a few paragraphs and assume we already know all of this and move on to the real story instead of devoting 60%+ of the book, some 250 pages, to boot camp, which isn’t the damn story, or at least shouldn’t be? I didn’t buy the book to read about boot camp. I bought it to read about the Human Defense Force and battling aliens. I knew basic training was part of it, but I didn’t know it was the bulk of the novel. If I had known that, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. The action, when gotten to, wasn’t that bad. Even boot camp action wasn’t horrible. It’s just it was … boot camp. Again. Over and over. Not badly written. Just written at all. That’s the crime here.

The writing isn’t bad. Four stars for that. The plot is. Two stars for that. Overall? Three stars. Sorry, but I can’t recommend it. Since this is apparently the first in a series, maybe the sequel will be an improvement and I’m willing to give it a try. I’m also willing to bet with fucking boot camp out of the way, the next book has got to be better. So, I’m expecting better from the next book. Nonetheless, for this current book, three stars and not recommended.

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Favorite Songs by Decade

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 18, 2016

My Favorite Songs by Decade

Recently, Gretchen and I were listening to our favorite DJ, Richard Blade, on our favorite radio station, First Wave, on SiriusXM as he interviewed The Cure’s Robert Smith, one of my favorite singers from one of my favorite bands. Gretchen can’t stand him. Richard asked him an interesting question and I was surprised by Robert’s answer. The question was for him to name his top 30 songs from the 1980s. A tough question to answer. Since The Cure started out as post-punk in the late 1970s, before quickly transitioning to goth (which they’re still known as by most fans), and later simply as an alternative band, one of the biggest in the world, I was expecting mostly songs by alternative bands, as well as a few goth bands. I was surprised by the answer because that was not at all the case. It was a diverse mixture of songs from all genres and I thought that was very interesting. And it got both of us thinking about what our lists would look like. So we decided to make our own lists.

When I sat down to make my list of my favorite ‘80s songs, I knew it would be very long and I’d have to make some hard cuts. That’s exactly what happened. I initially chose close to 100 songs. Then I started cutting. The first 20 were pretty easy, but after that, it got surprisingly hard. Each song had merit. Each song deserved to be on the list. But I had to keep cutting. Finally I got down to 50 and had to stop. I couldn’t go any further. There was simply no way I could cut any from my list of 50 and have any integrity that the list would be a complete list of my top songs from that decade. So I was finished. When Gretchen did hers, she was much more brutal and ended up with 30. When we shared them with each other, to no one’s surprise, they were very different. There was almost no crossover. While I had a lot of new wave, goth, and industrial, she had almost none of that. It was interesting.

So interesting, we wondered what a list of the 1990s would look like. That decade is one of her favorites, while it’s one of my least favorites. Or so I thought. I didn’t think I could come up with enough songs, but Gretchen challenged me to do so, so I sat down and started thinking. And to my shock, I was able to come up with a few songs. I really don’t think much good music was made during that decade. At all. Gretchen loves the music from that decade, but I think it’s a lost decade. Nonetheless, I was able to compile a shortish list and when I was done, I counted how many songs I had and to my surprise, I had exactly 40. Since I didn’t really want to cut any of them, I decided to keep them all and left my list at 40. When Gretchen did her list, it was 30 again. And again, our lists were very different. While Gretchen’s was mostly grunge, pop alternative, and alternative, mine was mostly industrial, alternative, electronica, world, and metal.

This brought us to the gigantic decade: the 1970s! Since we both grew up in that decade, it would be a gigantic challenge because there would be so many songs to choose from. When I sat down to work on mine, little did I know it would take me three days. I also decided to cut as I went, instead of writing down all of the songs and then cutting after I had written them all down. So as I was writing, I cut well over 125 songs as I went along. When I was finished, I had a list of 128 songs! I have gone over and over that list to see what else I can cut, but I cannot bring myself to cut a single one. After all, I’ve already cut 125 as I was compiling the list. Many classics I love didn’t make the list. But the list is long. I wanted it to be no longer than 75 songs. However, that proved to be impossible. There are too many good bands, too many good songs. I simply can’t cut, so to my shame, I’m leaving my list at 128 songs. And Gretchen? She wants to make her list, again, 30 songs, but she hasn’t done hers yet. I am begging her to do at least 50 because 30 won’t be a fair representative of that decade, but she seems determined. And my list? It’s comprised of classic rock, disco, soul, metal, new wave, arena rock, and a couple of punk songs. A big variety of music.

Gretchen will probably want to do a list from the year 2000-. While I like some music from that decade, it’s mostly some “new” rock and I’m tired even of that, so I doubt I’ll do any more lists. I think these three are enough for me. I’m going to post all three in this blog post, in order of decade, from oldest to most recent. I’m sure no one will agree with many or most of my choices, but that’s the beauty of lists, subjectivity, and free will. Anyone can make a list of their own and they can all differ as much as they want. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy seeing my eclectic lists. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into these, for no good reason other than the fun of it. Cheers!

 

Scott’s Top ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s Songs

Top ‘70s Songs

1. AC/DC — Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

2. AC/DC — Highway to Hell

3. The B-52’s — Rock Lobster

4. Billy Squire — The Stroke

5. Black Sabbath — Paranoid

6. Black Sabbath — Iron Man

7. Boston — More Than a Feeling

8. Boston — Foreplay/Long Time

9. Boston – Don’t Look Back

10. The Cars — Good Times Roll

11. The Cars — My Best Friend’s Girl

12. Cheap Trick — Dream Police

13. Chic — Le Freak

14. Chicago — 25 Or 6 To 4

15. Chic Corea & Return to Forever – You’re Everything

16. Christopher Cross — Ride Like the Wind

17. Chuck Mangione — Feels So Good

18. The Commodores — Brick House

19. The Commodores — Sail On

20. David Bowie — Changes

21. David Bowie — Ziggy Stardust

22. David Bowie — Suffragette City

23. Deep Purple — Smoke On the Water

24. Deep Purple — Space Truckin’

25. The Eagles — Hotel California

26. The Eagles — The Long Run

27. Earth, Wind & Fire — September

28. Earth, Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove

29. ELO — Mr. Blue Sky

30. Elton John — Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

31. Elton John — Island Girl

32. Fleetwood Mac — The Chain

33. Foreigner — Cold As Ice

34. Foreigner — Hot Blooded

35. Gary Numan — Cars

36. Gary Numan — Down in the Park

37. Heart — Barracuda

38. Heart — Magic Man

39. Heart — Crazy On You

40. James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend

41. Jeff Beck — Led Boots

42. Jeff Beck — Blue Wind

43. Jeff Beck — People Get Ready

44. Jefferson Starship — Miracles

45. Jefferson Starship — Jane

46. Jethro Tull — Aqualung

47. Jethro Tull — Cross-Eyed Mary

48. Jethro Tull — My God

49. Jethro Tull — Locomotive Breath

50. Jethro Tull — Thick As a Brick

51. Jethro Tull — Bungle In The Jungle

52. Jethro Tull — Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day

53. John Lennon — Imagine

54. Journey — On a Saturday Night

55. Journey — Hustler

56. Journey — Feeling That Way

57. Journey — Wheel in the Sky

58. Joy Division — Isolation

59. Kansas — Dust In the Wind

60. Kansas — Carry On Wayward Son

61. KC & The Sunshine Band – That’s the Way (I Like It)

62. KC & The Sunshine Band — Get Down Tonight

63. KISS — Rock and Roll All Nite

64. KISS — Detroit Rock City

65. The Knack — My Sharona

66. Kool & the Gang — Celebration

67. Kool & the Gang — Get Down On It

68. Led Zeppelin — Good Times Bad Times

69. Led Zeppelin — Communication Breakdown

70. Led Zeppelin — Stairway to Heaven

71. Led Zeppelin — Rock and Roll

72. Little River Band — Cool Change

73. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Gimme Three Steps

74. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Call Me the Breeze

75. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Free Bird

76. Michael Jackson — Off the Wall

77. Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ With Disaster

78. Mott the Hoople — Sweet Jane

79. Mott the Hoople — All the Young Dudes

80. Pat Benatar — Heartbreaker

81. Pat Benetar — Hit Me With Your Best Shot

82. Paul McCartney & Wings — Silly Love Songs

83. Paul McCartney & Wings — Live And Let Die

84. Paul McCartney & Wings — With a Little Luck

85. Paul McCartney & Wings — Band On The Run

86. Paul McCartney & Wings — Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

87. Paul McCartney & Wings — The Long And Winding Road

88. Paul McCartney & Wings — Listen to What the Man Said

89. Peter Frampton — All I Want to Be (Is by Your Side)

90. Peter Frampton — I Wanna Go to the Sun

91. Peter Frampton — Do You Feel Like We Do

92. Pink Floyd — One of These Days

93. Pink Floyd — The Great Gig In the Sky

94. Pink Floyd — Brain Damage

95. Pink Floyd — Welcome to the Machine

96. Pink Floyd — Have a Cigar

97. Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here

98. Pink Floyd — Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)

99. Pink Floyd — Comfortably Numb

100. Pink Floyd — Run Like Hell

101. Queen — Bohemian Rhapsody

102. Queen – You’re My Best Friend

103. Queen – I’m In Love With My Car

104. Queen — Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)

105. Queen — We Will Rock You

106. Queen — We Are the Champions

107. Queen — Sheer Heart Attack

108. Queen — Get Down, Make Love

109. Rainbow — Man On the Silver Mountain

110. Ramones — Blitzkreig Bop

110. REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ the Storm Out

111. The Rolling Stones — Shattered

112. Rush — The Trees

113. Rush — Closer to the Heart

114. Rush — La Villa Strangiato

115. Sex Pistols — God Save the Queen

116. Styx — Renegade

117. Styx — Come Sail Away

118. Styx — Suite Madame Blue

119. Styx — Miss America

120. Supertramp — The Logical Song

121. Supertramp — Take the Long Way Home

122. Tom Petty — Refugee

123. Tom Petty – Don’t Do Me Like That

124. Van Halen – Runnin’ With the Devil

125. Van Halen — Eruption

126. Van Halen — And the Cradle Will Rock…

127. ZZ Top — Tube Snake Boogie

128. ZZ Top — Cheap Sunglasses

 

Top ‘80s Songs

1. Asia — Time Again

2. Bauhaus — Stigmata Martyr

3. Bauhaus — Telegram Sam

4. Bronski Beat — Why?

5. The Cars — Magic

6. The Church — Reptile

7. The Cult — Phoenix

8. The Cure — Pornography

9. The Cure — Fascination Street

10. David Bowie — Cat People

11. Duran Duran — A View to a Kill

12. Echo & the Bunneymen — Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

13. The Fixx — Are We Ourselves?

14. Front 242 — Welcome to Paradise

15. Front 242 — Headhunter, Vol. 1.0

16. INXS — New Sensation

17. KMFDM — Virus

18. Dead Can Dance — Black Sun

19. Love and Rockets — Ball of Confusion

20. Love and Rockets — No New Tale To Tell

21. Madonna — Into the Groove

22. Michael Jackson — Beat It

23. Ministry — Stigmata

24. Ministry — So What

25. Moev — Wanting

26. Nine Inch Nails — Head Like a Hole

27. Nine Inch Nails — Terrible Lie

28. Nitzer Ebb — Control I’m Here

29. Peter Murphy — All Night Long

30. Peter Murphy — Cuts You Up

31. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy

32. Queen — Another One Bites The Dust

33. REM — Feeling Gravitys Pull

34. REM — The One I Love

35. REM — Orange Crush

36. Red Hot Chili Peppers — Higher Ground

37. Rush — Tom Sawyer

38. Simple Minds — All the Things She Said

39. Simple Minds — Sanctify Yourself

40. Sinead O’Connor — Jerusalem

41. Sinead O’Connor — I Want Your (Hands On Me)

42. Sisters Of Mercy — Dominion/Mother Russia

43. Sisters Of Mercy — Lucretia My Reflection

44. Skinny Puppy — Tin Omen

45. The Smiths — Bigmouth Strikes Again

46. Tears for Fears — Shout

47. Thomas Dolby — Hyperactive

48. Tones On Tail — Go!

49. U2 — Bullet the Blue Sky

50. Van Halen – Panama

 

Top ‘90s Songs

1. AC/DC — Back In Black

2. Arrested Development — Tennessee

3. Bigod 20 — The Bog

4. The Chemical Brothers — Block Rockin’ Beats

5. Dead Can Dance — Yulunga (Spirit Dance)

6. Dead Can Dance — The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove

7. Dead Can Dance — Carnival Is Over

8. Death In Vegas — Dirt

9. Deee-Lite — Groove Is In The Heart

10. Deftones — My Own Summer (Shove It)

11. Depeche Mode — Enjoy the Silence

12. Depeche Mode — Policy of Truth

13. Depeche Mode — Barrel Of A Gun

14. Faith & the Muse — The Trauma Coil

15. Faith No More — Epic

16. Jane’s Addiction — Been Caught Stealing

17. Jesus Jones — Right Here Right Now

18. Lisa Gerrard — Sanvean: I Am Your Shadow

19. Manufacture — As The End Draws Near

20. Manufacture — A Measured Response

21. Marilyn Manson — The Beautiful People

22. Marilyn Manson — Rock Is Dead

23. My Dying Bride — Your Shameful Heaven

24. My Dying Bride — Turn Loose The Swans

25. My Dying Bride — She Is The Dark

26. My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult — A Daisy Chain 4 Satan

27. Nine Inch Nails — Broken

28. Nine Inch Nails — Hurt

29. Nitzer Ebb — Lighting Man

30. Rage Against The Machine — Killing In The Name

31. Rage Against The Machine — Wake Up

32. Rammstein — Sehnsucht

33. Red Hot Chili Peppers — Under The Bridge

34. Revolting Cocks — Stainless Steel Providers

35. Skinny Puppy — Tormentor

36. Sonic Youth — Kool Thing

37. Tool — Stinkfist

38. Type O Negative — Black No. 1

39. Type O Negative — Love You To Death

40. Type O Negative — Burnt Flowers Fallen

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A Shocking Discovery

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 16, 2016

I had an appointment with my neurologist yesterday and in discussing some problems I had last Thursday, among several topics, I was shocked by what he told me. He said that I had had a minor stroke! I was stunned. I didn’t believe him. He said he was 100% certain I had had a stroke. I won’t bore you with what symptoms I had exhibited that led him to believe that, but as I wouldn’t believe him at all, he then conducted a battery of neurological tests on me, right side versus left side. This had impacted my right side. To my complete shock, the entire right side of my body is noticeably weaker, slower, less responsive, etc., than my left side. That was pretty convincing. I had had no idea before then. He told me I’m the ideal candidate due to my age, gender, and the fact that I’ve been experiencing some things that my doctor asserts would be typical of one experiencing that kind of trauma in that region, including years of severe pain in my eye sockets for numerous hours per day, every day. He sent me for an immediate MRI to make sure it’s not worse than what he thinks it is and he sent a request to my cardiologist for her to run some tests too. I called Gretchen in the taxi ride home and told her and she was shocked. I think she was a little distressed as well. She needed some time to process and I had to get to the imaging center, so we said goodbye and I spent my afternoon getting blasted in a loud machine. My third MRI of the year. So, after reading about this, I’ve discovered that 1 out of 20 people who have one of these have a major stroke within a few days and that 1 in 10 within three months. I kind of feel like I’m living on borrowed time. This is a bit of a shock. Gretchen seemed really surprised by my revelations about my weaker right side, so she asked me to do the basic first test of using both hands to shake her hand, something I did with my doctor. It appeared that my left hand’s grip nearly broke her hand. She winced and asked me to let go quickly. It was a tight grip, as my grips always have been. Then, I used my right hand. She was shocked! She asked me to squeeze harder and I told her this was the best I could do. I was basically making contact, I think, and I don’t think I was able to apply much pressure. It was embarrassing to me, but I think it showed her how weak my right side is. She didn’t conduct anymore physical tests. She was either convinced or too depressed to do so.  Anyway, I also had a tempestuous phone conversation with my mother last night, which make my day even better. All I can say is thank God for Gretchen, who while upset, is still a kind, loving, supportive person, there for me, and we can both lean on each other. Thanks for letting me share this, friends.

 

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A Review of The Sentinel

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 13, 2016

The Sentinel (The Sentinel Trilogy Book 1)The Sentinel by Michael Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sentinel is the first in a trilogy set in a future where humanity has splintered into largely ethnic factions, so that the English have settled several planets, centuries ago, and the Chinese, and so on. Most have lost touch with their roots. There are aliens in this universe and they have found allies with one such species. However, another – the Apex – is a buzzard-like bird species whose only goal is the eradication of all other sentient species. And when they attack ships, settlements, worlds, etc., they feast on their prey, horrifying those being attacked as they’re eaten alive.

Now, I’ve got to be truthful. The Apex are truly silly, as written. Many aliens are in sci fi. Sometimes you really have to stretch your imagination to buy into the worlds the author is painting for you. But this beats it all. These chickens have great technology, awesome starships, great armor and weapons, better comm technology than any species in the universe, and in order for them to power their ships, they have computers, thousands, perhaps millions, of years in the future. With keyboards, not voice recognition technology. Keyboards. Thousands of years in the future. Right. And they use their beaks and claws to tap the keys on the keyboards. OK, how fucking stupid is that? We’re under attack, Queen Apex Chicken! Let me peck some defensive commands into the computer to launch our missile counterattacks. Oops, took too damn long to peck those commands. We’re blown up. Sorry. See how stupid that is? Couldn’t the author have done something, anything better, more creative than that to make it moderately more believable, if spacefaring, warring buzzards are believable at all?

Anyway, the Singaporeans have their own world and fought off the Apex many years ago and established silent Sentinel forts throughout the various wormhole galaxies to guard against Apex attacks over a decade ago. Sentinel-3, led by Commander Li, has been lying silently in wait for 11 years. And it has become factionalized over time, with nearly half wanting to remain silent and complete their mission, even if that means staying until old age and death, while the others want to reach out and contact someone, anyone, thus giving away their position and risking Apex attack. Li is going crazy trying to hold the place together.

Along comes HMS Blackbeard, a beat up Albion Royal Navy warship. The Chinese don’t even know of this world and they are prepared to destroy it, but there are Apex hiding there who attack the ship and the fortress opens fire and between the fort and the ship, they destroy seven of the eight Apex ships, knowing one got away to warn other aliens, who will likely come attack.

The captain and crew of the ship are hoping for help repairing and restocking their ship, but they are caught in a tether and reeled into the fortress, where Li’s crazy sister has taken over with the hardliner’s, who decide to board the ship in an effort to kill most of them and take some of the crew to press them into service. They are repelled. Meanwhile, Li sides with the other group, retakes command of part of the fortress, and watches while members of the ship invade his fortress and take over his command and much of the fortress, leaving him to surrender.

There’s more action and, yes, the Apex return in force. What will happen? That’s why there’s a sequel, and yes, a trilogy. These damned new military sci fi writers keep shortening their full length books into trilogies, forcing us to buy several mini-length books at a time, just to read the whole story, because truthfully, the stories are honestly often so good, that I’ve just got to buy and continue. I’ve got to know what happens next! And that’s what I’ve done with this book. I’m halfway through with the next book.

I loved the plot. The writing is decent. The editing could have been better, but among the new breed of self-published or micro published sci fi books out there, it’s one of the better-edited books. It didn’t seem to have nearly as many typos or grammatical mistakes as many of these books do. That usually annoys the hell out of me. As mentioned, the climax is left to the next book, but then all of the current military sci fi authors are doing that lately, so you just have to accept that. And these Kindle books are so cheap, it’s really no big deal. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, so four stars, but certainly recommended.

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3 Things YOU Need To Know About Trigeminal Neuralgia – Daily Records

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 11, 2016

A while back, whilst working in Oregon, my husband, in agonizing pain, took himself to the emergency room at the local hospital. He had just suffered a severe burn, about 5 x3 inches, on his stomac…

Source: 3 Things YOU Need To Know About Trigeminal Neuralgia – Daily Records

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A Review of Man on the Run

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 3, 2016

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970sMan on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s by Tom Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man on the Run is an interesting biography of Paul McCartney and his family during the 1970s, as well as his band, Wings (one of my favorite bands of that decade). It is a long, thorough look at the good, bad, and ugly and pulls no punches, even while it clearly sympathizes with McCartney.
The book begins with the messy breakup of the Beatles, centering around the very public feud between Paul and John, which was part of the impetus for Paul’s decision to legally file to dissolve the Beatles. However, the legal ramifications showed that there were financial problems for the group and led to even more, thus sending Paul into a spiral of depression that led to he and his wife, Linda, to move to a farm in Scotland, out of the spotlight. During this period, he also lost a great deal of his confidence he had had in his abilities as a musician, as well as his own identity. Thankfully, Linda helped him through this crisis. Without her devoted love, who knows what would have happened to Paul?

The McCartney family became hippies and lived the hippy lifestyle, but Paul missed being in a band and missed touring, something he had tried to talk the Beatles into doing again and which they had refused to do. So he decided to start his own band – Wings. I didn’t know this, but there were actually three incarnations of Wings, three different bands over the years, all with Paul and Linda in them. And they were all comprised largely of studio musicians, mostly unknown. In my opinion, it’s frankly amazing Wings achieved the success and prominence they did with such an unassuming group of musicians. They obviously did this only with Paul’s leadership and drive.

However, first Paul put out a couple of solo albums, although one was credited to both he and his wife. They were all largely critical failures. The first Wings group met, practiced, and put out Wild Life in 1971. I don’t actually recall how it initially did, but ultimately it reached number 11 in the UK and number 10 in the US. Indeed, Paul’s first “hit” was a political song called “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” a song that was banned by the BBC. A 1972 non-hit was actually “Mary Had a Little Lamb, literally, which left both his band and the critics confused. Not Paul’s best decision. In 1973, Red Rose Speedway was released. It ultimately hit number 5 in the UK and number 1 in the US. In late 1973, the band got its first big break with Band on the Run, which immediately hit number 1 in both the UK and the US (the previous two albums achieved high chart status over time, not immediately). Band on the Run turned Wings into instant stars. 1973-4 hits include “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It, “ “My Love,” a major song that hit number one in the US, “Helen Wheels,” “Junior’s Farm,” “Band on the Run,” a huge hit that got to number three in the UK and number one in the US, and “Live and Let Die,” a theme song to a new James Bond movie and one that hit number two in the US.

And on it continued. After starting its career playing impromptu college student union tours for something like 50 pounds, Wings were now doing international stadium tours. And Paul could finally gloat over John, who had been taunting Paul publicly for years, basically calling him a giant failure while John, of course, was a musical genius. Not anymore. While John turned out the occasional hit, Paul McCartney and Wings were international stars selling out stadiums with superstar hit albums, something John couldn’t say. Paul could, temporarily, put his demons behind him.

However, there was a problem. Pot. He and Linda loved their pot. They smoked a lot of it. And they got it shipped to whatever country they were visiting on their tours. And in one country, Finland?, they were caught and it made international headlines. Of course, it was hugely embarrassing, but the couple actually embraced the moment and came out in favor of pot use and said they were in favor of legalizing it. Later in his career, Paul would be arrested in Japan for possession and it could have been a very serious situation. You should read the book to find out what happened.

Meanwhile, there were band personnel changes. Paul was a cheapskate and while he raked in millions, he paid his band members practically nothing at all. Finally, these session musicians would get fed up and state that they could make more doing session work back in New York or London, so they’d leave. Paul never really got the hint. It’s a shame. Still, he continued to put out good albums and tour with his new musicians.

In 1975, Venus and Mars was released and would ultimately hit number one in both the UK and US. 1975 hits included “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” and “Listen to What the Man Said, “ which would hit number one in the US. In 1976, Wings released two albums: Wings at the Speed of Sound and a live album, Wings over America. Both hit number two in America. They contained “Silly Love Songs,” which hit number two in the UK and number one in the US and “Let ‘Em In,” which hit number two in the UK and number three in the US. In 1977, “Mull of Kintyre” was released, instantly a huge hit in the UK, remaining at number one longer than any other song in British history until that time, I believe. However, in America, it didn’t fare so well, just getting to number 33.

It was at this time that Wings peaked. Already there was a third group of musicians and maybe it was chemistry, maybe Paul was burned out from the nonstop, frantic pace of the decade, I don’t know, but the following two albums weren’t nearly as good as the preceding albums by most accounts. In 1978, London Town was released. It didn’t do as well. Only Paul, Linda, and the lead guitarist were on the album cover because those were the only people in the band. It actually happens to be one of my favorite albums of all time, because I was a youngish kid when it came out and it was one of the first albums I had and my best friend and I listened to it over and over while building model planes. I love that album, but most critics do not. It’s not considered one of the better Wings albums, but it did hit number four in the UK and number two in the US. There were three singles released from this album, but the only one that really charted high was “With a Little Luck,” one of my all time favorite songs, which hit number five in the UK and number one in the US. Wings’ last gasp in the studio came in 1979 with Back to the Egg. It hit number eight in the UK and number three in the US. Its’ biggest single was “Getting Closer,” which made it to number 60 in the UK and number 20 in the US. And aside from some more solo work over the years, Paul was done and Wings were definitely done as a group. It was the end of an era. A highly successful era, a great decade of music, one of my favorite groups, as I said. And while the rest of the Beatles went on to do solo work and while John achieved some success, clearly Paul McCartney ended up the most successful Beatle of them all, post-Beatles. The best musician, the one who taught John and George how to play, ended up teaching Linda and helping his studio musicians put out a series of commercially successful albums and successful world tours, something the other Beatles rarely, if ever, achieved.

John sniped at Paul throughout most of their post-Beatles lives and Paul, on occasion, sniped back. Paul never really understood where John’s hostility came from, his utter hatred. Paul tried to make peace a number of times. There were a few times John seemed to accept the olive branch, only to blindside Paul later with public attacks that hurt Paul deeply. Fortunately, some time before John’s premature death, they buried the hatchet and reconnected, so that’s a very good thing and even though the author implies John was the major one to start things between the two, he treats all of the Beatles with reasonable respect and points out Paul’s faults when necessary.

The author stresses certain things that are important to Paul, such as family. He brought his family on the road with him, kids included. This sometimes made his band members uncomfortable, as it limited their abilities to lead the stereotypical 1970s rock and roll lifestyle (i.e., groupies), and it led to tension, but Paul was dedicated to his wife and kids and that’s generally a good thing. He was the only Beatle to have a 100% successful marriage/relationship. That’s impressive. He was also committed to financial honesty, at least in his dealings with the Beatles and in management’s dealings with the band. He figured out quite quickly that the manager the other three had hired had been screwing the band out of millions while paying the band crap, so he sued – and won – and was vindicated in doing so. The only difficulty with his financial honesty was in his dealings with his band because he stuck with his commitment to pay his band members their agreed upon wages, but when they struck it rich with their new number one hits and their world tours, he wouldn’t share the riches and it was truly rather greedy of him, unfortunately. A McCartney wart.

This hardback I read isn’t long, just over 250 pages. However, it’s packed with so much information and trivia, it takes longer to get through than your average 250 page book. Still, it’s informative and exciting and exactly what I’ve been looking for. I know a lot about the Beatles. I know a lot about John during the 1970s. What I didn’t know was what happened to Paul during the 1970s and the story of Wings and I didn’t know a book like this existed. So I’m elated to have discovered it and read it. I learned a ton of new information, some good, some bad, but all fascinating, and it answers a lot of questions I had about these people, that band, and that decade. For anyone who’s a fan of McCartney and Wings, this is a must read for you. Even if you’re just a Beatles fan or a 1970s music buff, this will be a good read for you. Four stars and definitely recommended.

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A Review of Starship Eternal

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2016

Starship Eternal (War Eternal, #1)Starship Eternal by M.R. Forbes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never heard of the author of this series until Amazon recommended him to me. I’m really glad it did. I enjoyed the hell out of this first of a five book series. I thought it was well-told, engrossing, action packed, well plotted, and left me wanting more. I’m hooked.

The book begins with Captain Mitchell “Ares” Williams, the Space Marine war hero pilot who fired the “Shot Heard Around the Universe” in the Battle for Liberty, a battle that saved the planet and possibly saved the Alliance itself. It was amazing and it’s made for great PR. The problem is, it’s a fraud. His lover and wing mate did it in a suicide attack on a huge dreadnaught. He’s the only survivor, so he’s the lucky flunky the brass has decided “took the shot” and who they’re parading around the Alliance worlds to give speeches, autographs, and amp up recruitment, which is exactly what is happening. Oh, and he’s getting laid a lot too. A lot.

But then comes an assassination attempt. His military handler gets killed in the action and he kills some of the assassins while attempting to get them all. While he’s hailed, again, as a brave and miraculous survivor, the truth is civilians died, and it’s his fault because they were late getting to an event because he was in a bar feeling sorry for himself and his handler was there trying to talk him into going. If he had gone, no one would have died. New handler. Major Christine Arapo. Serious, won’t take shit from him. But he’s wounded in the attack. His implant’s been scrambled and needs to be fixed. After it is, he starts hearing voices and is freaked out. He hears voices telling him to “find Goliath.”

At that point, we find ourselves 400 years back on Earth where an alien ship has crash-landed and a young girl named Kathy has seen all of this on TV while they all discuss and debate about what to do with what they call “XENO-1.” From it, they develop their own alien technology built starship years later with Kathy piloting it. It takes off for hyperspace, disappears and is never seen again. Everyone wonders whatever happened to it. It was named Goliath.

Mitchell continues going along with the sad ruse until he is lured into a bad sexual liaison with the Prime Minister’s wife. Accused of rape and exposed as a fraud, he has only one option—run—but where? He is helped, first, by Christine, then by his past self (it’s complicated). He makes it out into space and joins up with a crew of spec ops called the Riggers who are a complicated mess. All of them are on the fringe, all have been court martialed, many would have been executed by now, some are guilty of murder – or worse – but they have skills that the Alliance needs, so they’re on this seemingly innocuous freighter going around the galaxy running opps with minimal opposition, as no one expects anything from this ship or this crew. And Mitch joins them, becoming the captain’s lover and XO. Millie is a good and feared captain, a murderer, but her heart belongs to the Alliance. So when things start happening that make no sense…

Mitch keeps hearing voices about Goliath. He keeps thinking of Christine, even though he’s now with Millie. And Mitch heads back to Liberty to look for Christine, only to find it’s become overrun with alien invaders. A gigantic alien entity has implanted itself in the planet in the middle of his old city and has taken over everyone with implants (meaning the military), as he’s quickly discovered. He’s had his implant ripped out by now. He barely makes it out of there and gets back to rendezvous with the Riggers. They have new mission orders. I forgot something. If they disobey mission orders, there is a kill switch. Their ship can/will get blown up. They have to obey commands. Mitch tells Millie what has happened, what has happened to the Alliance, to Alliance implants, how important it is to get rid of them asap, and of finding Goliath and of going back to Liberty to find Christine and rescuing her, as she could be key in helping to find Goliath and helping to save the Alliance from these invaders. But all of this means disobeying direct orders. Millie ponders it. Her crew is definitely opposed. She decides to go with Mitch and tells her crew to head to Liberty. It’s a tension filled book. Naturally, I had to get the sequel. And then that book’s sequel. Etc., etc.

Starship Eternal has some time travel elements to it, but they’re mostly hinted it. Probably more in future books. It’s military sci fi, high tech, but also with a definite space opera feel to it. Which is a nice mix. There are a number of typos, especially toward the end of the book, which incline me to lower my rating from five stars to four stars, which is unfortunate, because this is a really excellent book, but the author needs to invest in a good copy editor. It’s his own fault if he produces substandard work. It’s his responsibility. I realize there’s “officially” a publisher listed, but I’m 99%+ confident this is self published, like so many of the recent spate of decent sci fi titles out there. Many of them are quite good, but most of them could use some good copy editors. Nonetheless, a very solid four star book and certainly recommended. And I’m already reading the second book in the series and enjoying it very much. Good series. I wish I had known about this author a while ago. Thanks, Amazon, for recommending him to me!

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A Review of Doomsday Book

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 18, 2016

Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel #1)Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’ve never heard of Connie Willis, the author the Doomsday Book, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best science fiction book of the year in 1992. Apparently, she’s quite successful, having won six Nebula awards (more than any other science fiction writer) and six Hugo awards, yet again, I’ve never heard of her, nor have I ever seen any of her books. I happened upon this book in a used bookstore, selling for a nickel, and I think that pretty much says it all. I don’t know how the hell she has won all these awards for books I’ve never heard of, and I’ve been reading science fiction since the early 1970s and know most of the prominent authors – just about all of them, in fact – but I’m almost willing to say she’s faking this bio, that her publisher is faking this bio, that there’s no way in hell she’s won all of these awards, because no one I know as EVER HEARD OF HER and you NEVER SEE ANY OF HER BOOKS IN A FUCKING BOOKSTORE!!!

So, this book. It’s about time travel. Specifically about a young history student at some made up college in England (I guess it’s a college, although the student must be a dwarf, because she’s only a meter and a half tall), who gets a tutor from another college to teach her about the Middle Ages because that is where she wants to travel to, specifically England, 1320. She learns all sorts of things, languages, spinning, riding, cooking, dressing oneself, etc., and after awhile, she feels she’s ready and her academic advisor believes she is too. The trouble is, her tutor, Mr. Dunwoody, doesn’t think she’s ready at all and thinks this is a huge mistake and furthermore thinks her academic advisor is an idiot who is pushing things too quickly, etc., while the student, one “Kivrin,” is champing at the bit, knowing she’s ready. And off she goes. And Dunwoody frets. And worries. And talks about it – incessantly. As in that’s all he talks about to anyone. And he complains – that she’s in danger, that she shouldn’t have gone, that she might not have gone to the right year, the right location, that anything could have gone wrong, and … well, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, Kivrin DOESN’T wind up in 1320. She apparently winds up in 1348, the year the Black Plague started and she finds herself very, very sick. And nothing is as she prepared for it. Everyone is wrong. Her clothes are wrong. Her name is wrong. Her cover story is wrong. Her language is wrong, as no one can understand her, and she can’t understand them. Her built-in translator doesn’t work. And she must go back and find the drop zone, so she can go home. She says this over and over again to everyone she meets. She must find the drop zone, she must go back to the drop zone, where’s the bloody drop zone? She also thinks about Dunwoody – a lot. Mr. Dunwoody was right about this, right about that, he’s probably not worrying about me, he probably is worrying about me, come save me Mr. Dunwoody.

I’ve never read a book where two characters, especially characters separated presumably by some 40 years, obsess so damn much over each other, repeatedly, over and over, four, five, six times a page. It’s fucking annoying as hell! I made it to page 202 out of 578 pages and decided if I read about the damn drop zone one more time and if I have to read about Dunwoody freaking out about Kivrin and Kivrin thinking over and over again about Dunwoody, I’d go psychotic and then no one could hold me responsible for the evil things that I would do. Rather than have that drastic outcome, I decided to stop. Holy shit, what an annoying book! I had read some one and two star reviews that commented about the damned repeating crap that goes on in this book, but I really wasn’t prepared for this idiocy. Willis could have cut out the repeating and shaved half the page count off the book and actually possibly made it readable. I don’t know how the book has a 4+ rating, because I think it’s utter rubbish. And the tech who sends Kivrin through to the 1300s collapses before he can provide Dunwoody and the others with crucial information and all he does, apparently, throughout the entire book, is raise his head up from his bed and remark that something terrible happened. Well, no shit asshole! Why don’t you tell someone something sometime some year, you jerk? Quit whining and be a man! Geez, what a pansy. Crappy book. No more than one star and most certainly not recommended under any circumstance.

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A Review of House of Reeds

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 13, 2016

House of ReedsHouse of Reeds by Thomas Harlan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The House of Reeds is the sequel to Wasteland of Flint, a book I thought very highly of and gave five stars to in this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show….

In this current book, xenoarcheologist Gretchen Anderssen and her team return and are sent to the planet Jagen – just to file a report, for big money, which must mean something bad. Also, in this book, we find Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, has been sent to the same location (Jagen), again captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. Why?

On the planet Jagan, there are unusual aliens who have some definite ideas about humans and self-rule and a few other things and there are some with a few scores to settle. And it just may happen that there may be some others out there who are stirring up a hornet’s nest, unbeknownst to Anderssen or Hadeishi or any of a number of other Imperials who are about to be impacted.

In this novel, the Emperor’s youngest son, a foppish screw up if I’ve ever seen one, and one I desperately kept hoping would grow the hell up, is sent to this planet with a few bodyguards to either take credit for putting down a major uprising, ideally with holos of him in blood spattered battle armor and weapons standing over dead enemy bodies, or dying heroically in battle. It’s a win either way for the Emperor. Of course, only certain people know this, obviously none of the aforementioned people. But as soon as he sets foot on the planet, the dandy creates a nightmare for everyone around him and gets himself into impossible situations so that you feel so.very.sorry for his bodyguards.

Gretchen befriends an alien in a hostile alien city and finds a First Sun relic, what they’ve been after, and gains immense knowledge and power, without anyone really finding out, but has to escape with the help of this alien and as the planet explodes around them, the bulk of the book takes place with everyone trying to escape to other places, looking for safety, even with Mitsuharu and his crew trying to get to and from and to the ship again, even though it has been violently attacked and partially destroyed.

The book is almost as good as its predecessor, but I’ve got to knock it down a notch from five stars to four for one major reason: it’s too damn complicated! That’s not to say I’m a complete dumbass. I don’t think I am. I’m not one of the smartest, I know, but I’ve got a fairly decent IQ and I read a lot (95 books by mid-July this year) and I usually understand most books (having read Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, which was one of the hardest ever), but this book is ridiculous. First, there are way too many characters to keep track of. So many, that it’s almost as bad as a David Weber novel, which is saying something. But at least Weber puts a list of his characters at the end of his books so you can look them up. This just leaves you hanging, wondering who the hell they are. More importantly, as you jump from chapter to chapter, from passage to passage within chapters, you just start to get confused, because there are so many different scenes taking place in so many different locations at once, that you’re just lost, at least I was until the very end of the novel. It took me forever to catch up and figure out who was where, when, and at what point. Call me dumb, but I thought it was needlessly difficult. I’ve read harder, but those books have been what I view as intentionally intellectually more difficult and more stimulating. This book is simply supposed to be an intriguing, entertaining, action/adventure/mystery within a sci fi genre without making you bang your head against the wall five times. At least, that was my expectation.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed it, frustrations aside. I think it’s a good series. Ambitious at times, but good. An interesting story. It’ll be interesting to see what Harlan does with the third book. Four stars for what could and should have been a five star book. Recommended.

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A Review of The Helverti Invasion

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2016

The Helverti InvasionThe Helverti Invasion by John Dalmas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Helverti Invasion is the second novel in John Dalmas’s Monitor Service series, following The Lizard War. In the previous book, Brothers from the Order of Saint Higuchi infiltrated the Saint Lawrence People’s Democratic Republic in order to attack a number of aliens, the Lizards, who had been manipulating the local government and goading it to invade neighboring states. In the book’s climax, Luis Raoul DenUyl managed to gain access to the alien spaceship, kill the captain and other aliens, wreck many controls, and disable their shield. Meanwhile, Lemmi Tsinnajinni penetrated the PDR headquarters and killed the Chairman. Excellent book.

In this novel, five years later, Luis and Lemmi and two other Higuchi masters are flown to the brother house at Moleen in a Monitor Service aircraft where they are then briefed. They learn that a group of alien Fohanni chaos cultists has made “illegal” contact with the primary chief of the Dkota tribe and is probably stirring up a war with the Kingdom of Sota. Three years ago, the Dkota and Sota had signed a peace treaty; the king of Sota is a peacenik who refuses to listen to any talk of the Dkota breaking the treaty. Lemmi is tasked with studying the Dkota situation and Luis is ordered to check the readiness of Sota.

Meanwile, Jorval, the leader of the Fohanni cultists, learns that all is going well with the war plans, but the Dkota chief, Mazeppa Tall Man, has made changes to the plans. He wants to start the war sooner, with more warriors, and to a far greater extent than previously thought.

This story involves war and an effort to avoid war or, if it is inevitable, to force the invaders to lose an unacceptable number of warriors and be routed. The situation is complicated by a vision that Mazeppa once had that told him that he was destined to rule the whole area. Jorval has made things worse by telling him that the Sota kingdom is planning to kill all of the buffalo. And King Eldred is weakening Sota by eliminating the militias and reducing the number of guards allowed in each duchy and barony.

The invasion occurs, with numerous warriors. The defenders… Are they prepared? You really should read the book.

This book was a great sequel to an excellent first book, and if one likes detailed plots, intrigue, and ultimately some good combat, it too is a very good book. Is it worth five stars? No, but it’s a solid four-star book and comes recommended.

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