Soldier of Fortune — Kathleen McClure

Click on picture to get your copy.

Having been a long time fan of Kathleen’s books, i recently had the pleasure to read and review the first two books of Kathleen’s new sci-fi series that she co-wrote with L. Gene Brown, The Gemini Hustle and The Libra Gambit.   Well worth reading if you like really good action packed sci-fi.

While reading those i found out that Kathleen and Kelley McKinnon are busy putting the finishing touches on the latest Fortune novel, The Crew Who Came in From the Cold. And it had me wondering how long it had been since i’d read the earlier Fortune books, and yeah, it had been quite a while.   So long, in fact, that i could only remember totally enjoying them but not much else — there’s been a huge amount of books read in those in-between years that just dulls one’s memory.

So once i’d finished The Libra Gambit i quickly finished off another book i’d been itching to read, then i loaded up my newest Kindle with all the Fortune books i have and set out to re-read them all again, ready for The Crew Who Came in From the Cold.

Which leads me to this review.   One thing i can say for sure is that my memory didn’t fail me in remembering that i had totally enjoyed this book, and once again, i totally enjoyed it.   It was so good that my memory of the story had faded because i started reading people and places and dracos all came flooding back and it was like bumping into an old friend after years apart.

Gideon Quinn is our main protagonists, and he is so well written and such a great character, as are all the others.   One of my biggest draws to Kathleen’s books, whether written on her own or those she writes with Kelley McKinnon or L.Gene Brown are the characters: they’re just brilliant.

As i’ve said in other reviews, Kathleen and Co make the goodies that perfect level of good and the baddies that perfect level of bad and the interactions between all the characters just roll along perfectly because of this.

And as usual with Kathleen and Co, the action is just non-stop.   It’s like a super good action film in a book form.

And did i mention that this first book in the series is free to download?   So why not give it a try, i can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed and will soon be reading the whole series.

So having finished this first book i’ve dived straight into Outrageous Fortune and i’m having a whole new blast re-meeting the crew of the Errant once again after all these years since i last read this.

Bye for now.
 

#kathleenmcclure

The Libra Gambit — Kathleen McClure and L. Gene Brown

Click on picture to get your copy.

Once more, before i begin, i just wish to add that this was sent to me by Kathleen to read and review.

So now that’s out of the way, what did i think?

I think this follows on superbly from the first book in the series, The Gemini Hustle.   All our favourite good characters are back being their goodest best (my spell checker tells me that “goodest” isn’t a real word: stupid spellchecker!), the baddies are, once again, that perfect level of bad, and we even get some AI’s brought into the story: and i really like a good AI.   Who knows where the AI thing is going to go in future episodes, but i’m certainly hoping very much to hearing more about/from them.

On top of this there’s all the different aliens that appear, and also the clones, they call themselves ADs (Artificially Designed Human Life Forms) who are made up of interesting selections of human genes all mixed up into one person or, apparently, a whole crèche.

And there’s so much more to enjoy.   Like a hugely OTT prison break from a space station prison (yeah, in space), which starts off as a simple break-one-person-out and ends up just growing more and more OTT as the story goes on.

Once again, super fast paced which just keeps going and going, great characters, lots of different factions, a great universe setting, it’s just great all round.   It’s got everything a really good action adventure sci-fi novel needs.

Kathleen McClure and L. Gene Brown make a fantastic writing duo and i certainly hope this writing collaboration keeps on going and going and going.   I eagerly look forward to reading more from this universe.

Seriously people, if you haven’t started already, get reading this series.   It’s super duper fun.

Enjoy.   And be sure to check out the Outrageous Fiction website for some more great story treats.
 

#kathleenmcclure #lgenebrown

Thunderbird Email Client

Just a shout out to remind those of my 8 billion potential readers who use Thunderbird email client that it’s that time of year to go to the website and donate a little teeny tiny bit of money to keep this great project going.

https://give.thunderbird.net

And if you aren’t happy with your current email client and want a superb super good one, then check out Thunderbird today (or tomorrow) (or whenever you get so fed up with that crappy email client you’re currently using you can’t bear living any more).

#5t4n5 #thuderbird #computers

30 Minute Pastel #1


20 x 15 cm.   Using various hard pastels and pastel pencils on Winsor and Newton Tints grey pastel paper.

This was a painting of a painting from the book 30 Minute Pastels by Margaret Evans.

I really don’t like this paper, it was just soooo hard to get the pastel pencils to do anything with it and i ended up breaking a few leads pressing too hard just trying to make a mark.   But it’s good to try various supports, maybe it’ll work better with soft pastels.

All in all i’m quite happy with how it turned out, even if it did take me quite a lot longer than 30 minutes.

Another painting for my living room wall though.

 
 
#5t4n5 #art #painting #pastels

The Gemini Hustle — Kathleen McClure and L. Gene Brown

Click on picture to get your copy.

Before i begin, i just want to let you know that Kathleen sent me a free copy of this book to read and review . . .

. . . which, having totally and absolutely enjoyed every other book of Kathleen’s that i’ve read (and i’ve read a few) i was soooo excited to do.

And also to mention that this is a review of the second edition, as the book was rewritten after The Libra Gambit was released.

And so, moving onto the review: having read all of Kathleen’s Fortune series, which are so seriously good books, the bar for this book was set quite high with my expectations and, free or not, it would still have to earn a good review on it’s own merits.   But, i’m very pleased to say that this book didn’t disappoint me in the least.

Once again with Kathleen, the reader is thrown straight into the action, mayhem and shenanigans of the main protagonists, and once again, it just doesn’t stop until the end of the book.   It’s just full on, turned up to 11, from beginning to end.

The characters were great, even the bad ones.   And that’s something that Kathleen gets so right.   For me, it’s a fine line to tread with baddies in books: if you make them so awful i just don’t want to read the book, and some writers really do make the baddies soooo cringeworthy i just delete the whole book.   But if the baddies aren’t awful enough then the whole thing just doesn’t work and you might as well delete the book and find something else to read that’s more exciting.   So yeah, Kathleen really gets her baddies at that perfect level of badness.

And the web of relationships between the characters that slowly gets revealed and built upon as the story goes on is seriously good also.

As a Trekky, one thing that i really, really enjoyed about this book was the Rasalkans.   They’re like the Betazoids in Star Trek but they come in factions called houses and they have Rasalkans with all kinds of psychic abilities within each house.   Which, giving us a deeper look into Betazoid society, is something that i think Star Trek seriously missed out on.   This book, i think, fills in a lot of those gaps as to what a highly psychic/empathic/telepathic society would possibly be like.   But similar to the Bene Tleilax in Dune where no one knows about the females, in this universe no one seems to know anything about the Rasalkan males.   Hard core matriarchal society, Yeah!!!

All in all, this is fast paced, character driven, sci-fi story telling at it’s best.   If you’ve enjoyed Kathleen’s Fortune books then you’ll certainly enjoy this, and if you haven’t read any of Kathleen’s books at all then i seriously suggest you giving one a go, you’ll have a great time.

Best of all, Kathleen also sent me the next book in the series, The Libra Gambit, to read and review, which, having enjoyed this book so much, i’m having no hesitation jumping straight into to see what our seriously enjoyable protagonists are going to get up to next.   And i’m also hoping we’ll see some of those wonderfully bad baddies that got away make an appearance at some perfectly inopportune moment.
 

#kathleenmcclure #lgenebrown

Will I Live to See My Utopia? — P. Djèlí Clark

Inspired by the TV show Watchmen.   You can read it over at Uncanny.

An interesting and thought provoking essay by one of my favourite writers.   Djèlí is a historian by day and he provides lots of links for you to learn things with.

And for those of you who haven’t watched Watchmen yet, then seriously get the fuck out from under that rock you’ve been living under and turn the computer on and find it.   Seriously good TV.

#5t4n5 #watchmen #tv

Dopamine Nation — Anna Lembke

I recently discovered Anna when she appeared on the two podcasts below.   So i immediately got hold of this book and decided to put all my other reading on hold and dive straight in: some times i feel some things are just that important.

So having listened to the two podcasts was there anything more to be learned from the book?

Yes.

Without a doubt, both podcasts were great in their own unique ways, Rich and Michael approach this topic from two very different angles and flavour their podcasts accordingly, and when it comes to the book i think that the reader will find their own bag within it.

One thing Anna isn’t within this book is judging and preachy: she’s not telling anyone what to do or what not to do.   Anna simply lays out a bunch of case histories and how the human propensity to seek pleasure and minimise pain within this age of abundance is what is ultimately causing so many problems.   The reader can make their own mind up as to where they are on this wild and crazy spectrum of addiction that is plaguing our age and species, and also what they may wish to do about it.

Super good and definitely a book to put on the shelf next to The Pleasure Trap: if you haven’t read that then seriously, get reading that too.

But, whether you wish to take the time to read Dopamine Nation or not, i do hope you’ll take the time to listen to the podcasts: both are different, so please don’t just listen to one.

Rich Roll Podcast

Finding Mastery

The Rich Roll one is available on video if you prefer it that way:

#5t4n5 #addiction #drugs #dopamine #books #reading #annalembke

Cycling Safely

Some thoughts about an old BBC article:   Readers’ radical solutions to protect cyclists

While i agree with some of the points made, i really don’t think that list is very good for keeping people safe on bicycles.

Having been a life long cyclist, and spent over 12 years living and cycling in London, i think i’m fairly well qualified to weigh in on the cycling safety debate.

How to keep safe while cycling:

1. Do not wear headphones.   Listening to music, podcasts, etc., is one of the quickest ways to get you in trouble on a bicycle.   Your ears serve as a second set of eyes, you need to be attentive to what is behind you and listening carefully is like having eyes in the back of your head.

2. Wear bright colours.   Hi viz vests can slip over the top of whatever you’re wearing and can be removed quickly and shoved into a pocket when you get to where you’re going.   Remember, you cannot be bright enough, pile on the dayglo during daylight hours (there’s a clue in the name dayglo) but once it gets dark you need lots of white and reflective stuff beacause, surprise, surprise, dayglo does not work at night, if it did it would be called ‘niteglo’.   Also to remember is that other road users need to see your signals, so if you’re wearing dark gloves and sleeves then they probably won’t see you signalling even in daylight and especially at night, so make your arms and hands stand out as well.

3. Be aware that vehicles do have blind spots.   If you don’t understand this, just go and stand near a busy junction and watch articulated vehicles turning and see how they behave and how the mirrors lose sight of the side of the vehicle when they’re turning, and watch how the back wheels cut the corner.   Don’t put yourself anywhere near a big lorry at a junction, even if they’re not indicating, the driver just may have forgotten to indicate.   Remember also, with large vehicles you as a cyclist cannot see what’s on the other side of them, so be fucking careful!!!   Holding back when large vehicles are around may add a minute or two to your journey, but it can save your life.

4. Use lights at night.   Bright ones.   Several.   At least two front and two back ones.   Super bright modern LED bike lights are not very expensive and run great on rechargeable batteries.   Fill your bike up with light if you cycle in the dark.   My best advice for lights is to go on eBay and buy two Cree T6 front lights with 18650 batteries.   Most come with a free back light that runs on 2 aaa batteries.   18650 batteries are great and can be recharged lots of times if you use an intelligent charger.   A good charger is well worth the money because it looks after your batteries and doesn’t cook them making them last for a very long time.   I don’t recommend rechargeable lights, the kind with built in batteries, as they can run out of charge and then you’re left with no light.   If you have battery powered lights you can take several spare batteries just in case.   On a long ride at night i can easily get through 7 18650 batteries across 3 Cree T6 lamps.   One rechargeable bike light would be useless for me.

5. Be confident and assertive — where appropriate (see warning on lorries above)!   There really is nothing worse on the road than a dithering, mincing, cyclist.   Vehicle drivers should be left in no doubt whatsoever of your intentions.   Ok, i probably do take this one a bit too far as i have been known to play chicken with cars, never lorries, but i don’t recommend it for the faint hearted.   But my point is that drivers really do not want to kill or injure you, if you make them fully aware of what you’re doing most drivers will do their utmost to avoid you.   And it’s not just about signalling, taking the correct, dominant road position for your intention is as important as signalling is.   There is absolutely no point in signalling to go right at the next junction if you stay cycling in the gutter on the left hand side, you are inviting vehicles to overtake you by your road position.

6. Buy a tax disc holder for your bicycle and put a tax disc in it.   Apparently there’s lots of car drivers who think that the reason so many people are injured on bicycles is simply because they don’t have a tax disc.   I’m obviously being facetious here, but it’s in the BBC article linked to above and sadly there doesn’t seem to be anything facetious in Alexander, Birmingham’s remarks.   Let’s get something straight; no one pays road tax.   There is no such thing as road tax.   What vehicles owners pay is ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’, which is charged on a level appropriate to the gas guzzling nature of the vehicle in question.   I pay ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’ on my moped, and to be honest, i get treated no differently by car, van, bus or lorry drivers on that than i do on a bicycle.   So **** off with your road tax comments!!!   Surely it would be better to just scrap VED altogether and put the price of petrol and diesel up.   At least that way those who pollute the most, pay the most, and the government would save millions by not employing all those people at DVLA to administer a stealth tax that causes so much bad feelings between road users.

7. More congestion charging zones.   Any cyclist who remembers the centre of London pre-zone, will tell you how bad it was.   Most people wouldn’t cycle there because it really was incredibly dangerous.   Then came the congestion charging and the traffic dropped massively and drivers were less stressed out and grumpy and cycling through the city was very easy and relatively safe in comparison to what it had been.   If more cities and towns brought in congestion charging — and used the money made to fund better public transport and cycle lanes — things would be a lot safer and healthier for everyone.   It would also help the country to meet our carbon limits.

8. If you’re just pottering around town then ride a bicycle that you can sit up straight on (Dutch style).   They’re far better for your back than being hunched over the handle bars, but most importantly, if you’re sat up straight then you can see very clearly over the tops of cars and they can see you.   Being bent over your handle bars limits your field of vision massively, and it hides you behind vehicles: all the dayglo in the world ain’t gonna help if you’re hidden from sight.   So get your bicycle a long stem for your handle bars and sit up properly.   You only need to be low and aero if you’re doing some serious training, not for riding around town.

9. Turn your phone off!!!!!!!   You do not need pointless distractions while cycling.   Don’t worry, the text messages, tweets and facebook updates will arrive when you switch it back on, and people can call back later when it’s safer for you to answer.

10. Keep your bike in good running order, and know how to use it properly.   You do not need something going drastically wrong with your bicycle, like your chain coming off or getting your trouser leg stuck in the chain in the middle of a junction surrounded by moving vehicles.

And that’s my ten most important cycling safety things.

Have fun cycling safely.

#5t4n5#bicycles #cycling #bikes #gettingfitter #roads #transport #fitness #health