Book Review of “Doctor Who: Engines of War”

“Doctor Who: Engines of War” was published in 2014 (September) and was written by George Mann (http://georgemann.wordpress.com). Mr. Mann has published over 15 books. This eBook is available from Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. I would rate this novel as ‘PG’ as there is some violence. This a solo adventure of the Science Fiction character Doctor Who and was written in the third person. The story is set primarily on the planet Moldox, with Doctor Who and a young woman we only know as Cinder as the primary characters.

Doctor Who is in the space near the planet Moldox with other Time Lords engaging the Daleks. His Tardis is damaged during the engagement and he crashes onto the planet, where he meets Cinder.

Cinder is one of the few human survivors on Moldox and it an active part of the resistance. She is on the loosing side of a fight with a band of Daleks when she is rescued from imminent death by Doctor Who’s crashing Tardis.

The Doctor reluctantly takes Cinder in tow as he investigates why the Daleks are taking humans prisoners instead of killing them as is their normal habit. The Doctor finds importing information and leaves for the Time Lord home world with Cinder. But the information is not received as he had hoped and they are thrust into a confrontation with the high council. The Doctor, sometimes with the aid of Cinder, fights for what he sees as being the right thing to do.

I must say that I have never been a fan of Doctor Who. It is one of the few Science Fiction programs that I have not followed, but the seven hours spent with this story was enjoyable. The characters all seemed to be well developed and there was a clear change in how the Doctor and Cinder felt about each other as the story evolved.

The plot was on the light side, but it kept my interest and the story moved along quickly to maintain my interest. I rate this story a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Tuneup Your OS X Mac – Part 1

I have found my 2011 Mac Mini acting sluggish lately, so I decided to
tune it up some. I searched the Web and this is the summary of what I found and tried. This has seemed to make my Mac run faster.

The Simple Stuff

Restart the Mac – If you are running a desktop Mac that runs all the time, it may be beneficial to simply reboot it occasionally[1]. As I leave my Mac Mini running all of the time, this was the first thing that I tried.

Clear the Desktop – Simply having too many items on the system desktop can impede performance[2, 3]. You shoul have the minimal number of items being displayed on the dektop. If you need access to items from the desktop, create a folder on the desktop and move the items there[4]. Or create folders and add the to the ‘Dock’ for easy access.

Fragmentation – If you are a Windows user, you would think that the first thing to do is to defrag the disk. Generally there is no defragmentation needed on OS X systems. The filesystem used by OS X has optimization[5, 6] built in that will automatically handle fragmented files under most conditions. You may need to defrag your disk if your disk is more than 80% full or if you are using a program that uses the disk heavily such as video manipulation[4] or witch create very large files[6].

Available Boot Drive Space – I checked the amount of free space on the boot drive (In the ‘Finder’ >> File >> click on ‘Get Info’). This will show you the information on your boot drive, including the amount of free space.

Depending on the source referenced, you should always have 10%[7, 8, 3] to 20% (a minimum of 10G[5] to 20G) of free space on
the boot drive. Depending on the aplications you are usually running, more space may be needed to accomodate application scrath files. Mac OS X also uses substantial disk space for Virtual Memory[1]. The bottom line is the more space available on the boot drive the better and a target of 20% or more is a good rule of thumb. I am right at 80% used on my boot drive. I need to look at either reducing the space being used, or consider another disk. I will cover steps to clean up the disk in Part 2.

Boot Drive Speed – The faster (7200 rpm or an SSD) the boot drive the better[5]. In my case the Apple supplied disk is only 5400 rpm (Found by clicking the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen >> About this Mac >> More Info >> System Report >> SATA / SATA Express. The Rotational Rate of the divice is listed). The first item then to add to a upgrade shopping list is a faster disk.

Too Many Applications Running
If you have too many applications running simultaneously, then the
drain on memory and CPU will degrade performance. Be sure that you have not set too many applications to autostart when your Mac is booted. A quick way to verify what is running is to either look at the ‘Dock’ on your desktop, or bring up ‘Force Quit’ (Found by clicking the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen >> Force Quit). Anytime you have an application that is running that you are not currently using, it is a good practice to quit it to free up resources.

You may want to review the ‘Startup Items’ or ‘Login Items” [1] to be
sure that only items are being started at boot that you really need
(Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen >> System Preferences >> Users & Groups >> Login Items). Open applications
will insert “helper” programs into the list. You may want to remove
these if you are not using the programs on a routine basis[8].

While you have the ‘System Preference’ window open, look at the bottom row where the Other items are listed. Review these to see if they all are still needed[1].

Dashboard – You may or may not be using the Dashboard anymore, but if you have many widgets set up they can be using system resources [9]. Open the ‘Finder’ >> Applications >> Dashboard. Once you open the ‘Dashboard’ you can click on the “-” button at the bottom of the screen. An “X” will appear on each of the widgets allowing them to be removed as desired.

Universal Access – If you do not need the features of ‘Universal Access’ then you should make sure that they are all turned off. (Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen >> System Preferences >> Accessibility. Go through the different Preference panes to insure that any features you do not need are disabled.

In “Tuneup Your OS X Mac – Part 2” I will address how to clean up the boot disk to recover space.

Related Articles

  1. Tuneup Your OS X Mac – Part 2 . . . Easy Disk Cleanup
  2. Tuneup Your OS X Mac – Part 3 . . . Safari
  3. Tuneup Your OS X Mac – Hardware Upgrades

References

1- 11 No Cost Tips for Optimizing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Performance
2 – 4 Simple Mac Maintenance Tips
3 – OS X, Mavericks: 5 steps to a faster Mac
4 – Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance
5 – Enhancing Performance of your Mac
6 – Disk fragmentation and Mac OS X (Redux)
7 – How to improve Mac performance: OS X Mavericks edition
8 – Seven maintenance tips to optimize Mac performance
9 – Tuning Mac OS X Performance

See the directory to all Mac OS X posts

Book Review of “The Yankee Club”

“The Yankee Club” was published in 2014 (August) and is the ninth novel by Michael Murphy. This eBook is available on Amazon.

“The Yankee Club” is a mystery novel. I was given access prior to publication through NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com).

The setting of the novel is in 1933 New York City, with prohibition still the law. As the story evolves, the characters cross paths with a few well known celebrities of the era.

Jake Donovan is a former private investigator who has become the author of the best selling “Blackie Doyle” mysteries. He grew up in a rough part of Queens and has close friends who have not let prohibition get in the way of business.

Laura Wilson grew up with Jake, and they were a couple for many years. But two years prior she turned down his marriage proposal. Jake left New York for a new start in Florida. Laura, always involved in the theatre, is now a star on broadway.

Jake returns to New York City for a quick business trip arranged by his publisher, only to become wrapped up in the murder of his former Private Investigation partner. As he begins to investigate, he crosses paths with Laura and realizes he should never have left New York for Florida.

There is a bit of romance, some intrigue and lots of excitement as Jake pursues the truth behind his friend’s death.

I found this to be a very enjoyable, well written mystery. The plot was well developed, and the characters well rounded. The pace never let the reader get bogged down. I recommend it with a rating of 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Short Story Review of “Lady Marian of Gisborne”

“Lady Marian of Gisborne” was published in 2014 and wa written by Ani Bolton (http://www.anibolton.com). Ms. Bolton has published two novels (I reviewed Steel and Song earlier) and short stories. This short story is available from Amazon.

I was alerted that this short story was available for free download through Ms. Bolton’s newsletter. This is best categorized as a Historical Romance short story, as it is an alternate tale of Robin Hood. This is the first of “The Gisbornes of Nottingham” trilogy. I would say that it deserves an ‘R’ rating due to Mature Content and a little Violence. The story is written in the third person from the view points of the primary characters – Lady Marian and Guy of Gisborne.

In this alternate telling, Robin Hood is not a major character. Lady Marian is promised by her father to Guy, and in the opening chapter they are married. As we would expect, Lady Marian loves Robin and hates Guy. However, Marian finds herself quickly drawn to Guy to satisfy her unexpected lust. As they share a bed and live together on their estate, Marian’s feelings for Guy begin to evolve, though Robin always stands between them.

I only spent an hour reading this short story, but it was enjoyable. Both of the major characters were well developed. You see a different side to Guy than is normally portrayed. He is still the ruthless Sherriff’s man, but there is more depth to him in this telling. The plot was simple, though not necessarily expected. Overall I give this a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “The Unforgivable Fix”

“The Unforgivable Fix” was published in 2014 (October) and was written by T. E. Wood (http://www.tewoodswrites.com). This is the third book in the “Justice” series and Ms. Woods third novel. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. I would rate this novel as ‘R’ as there is Mature Language, Mature Situations and Violence. The novel is written in the third person and is set in and around Seattle, Washington. The primary characters are Mort Grant, Lydia Corriger and Allie Grant.

Mort Grant is a Seattle, Washington Police Detective. He is still dealing with the loss of his wife of many years as well as the unknown condition of his long missing daughter.

Allie Grant is Mort’s daughter. She disappeared years ago, but suddenly has reappeared on the run from her boyfriend and others in the drug business.

Lydia Corriger is a psychologist recovering from a gunshot wound to the head (Happened in the first novel “The Fixer”), who has finally reopened her practice.

Allie is afraid of her boyfriend as well as a Russian who he indirectly attached. She comes home and asks her father for help. Mort works with DEA and FBI to get her immunity in return for information on the drug business of her boyfriend. Mort asks Lydia to provide Allie a safe haven until arrests have been made.

Mort is ecstatic that his long missing daughter has returned home and is willing to do anything to keep her safe. He works with the Feds to capture Allie’s boyfriend, and tries to deal with them to keep her from serving time. Meanwhile, Allie is living with Lydia. Lydia is happy to help Mort, but she finds Allie much harder to accept. Lydia is also struggling with a child abuse case she is working on, as well as the demands of supervising a graduate student on his clinical hours.

The bulk of the story surrounds the efforts to arrest Allie’s boyfriend, the interaction between Allie and Lydia, and Lydia’s pursuit of the child abuse case. As with the other novels in this series, there are two mysteries that are being addressed. I thoroughly enjoyed the nine hours I spent reading this novel. The characters were well developed, you were able to get to know each. The story was engaging, it was relatively fast paced, keeping the reader interested. Though I had guessed at the “mysteries” before they were exposed in the story, I still thought that they were good plot twists. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Steel and Song”

“Steel and Song” was published in 2014 and was written by Ani Bolton (http://www.anibolton.com). This is her second novel and the first in “The Aileron Chronicles” series. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. This story is a Young Adult / Fantasy / Alternate History / Steampunk tale told in the third person. Due to Mature Language, Mature Situations and Violence, I categorize the book as ‘R’. The novel is set in Russia, but in a different Russia than we know. In this story the Cossacks, rulers of Russia, are at war with the Franks. The primary characters are Tova Vanaskya and Piers Nikolayevich.

Tova is a young peasant girl living in rural Russia. She, as many of her fellow gytrash, have magical skills. In Tova’s case she is an Air Witch with an ability to control the wind. Because of her young age and ability to use her power to navigate a coal barge, she has escaped being drafted into the Cossack’s army. Her luck finally runs out though and she is torn from her mother and younger sister as a conscript.

Piers is a Cossack and is the last young male of the House of Rus, one of the seven Houses. He commands an aileron, a military air ship, and repeatedly throws his ship into battle. He has tallied many kills, but he is never satisfied with his successes, fighting internal demons on every flight. He lost his Air Witch on his last mission and goes looking for a replacement. By the time he makes his way to the replacement depot, all that is left is Tova, which he takes as better than nothing.

Tova displays high skills for someone untrained flying the Aileron. She makes friends with other of the conscripts and finds that there are some ready to revolt against the Cossack’s oppression. She makes friends with the other Aileron crew members, and impresses them and Piers with her ability. There is also a growing attraction between Tova and Piers but as a Cossack, his social position is far above hers.

I enjoyed the five hours I spent reading this novel. There is a touch of romance along with the action Tova and Piers face against the Franks. I thought the characters were well developed, and I liked the story. Over all I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “The Travel Writer”

“The Travel Writer” was published in 2014 (June) and is the first novel by Jeff Soloway. This is a mystery novel set primarily in contemporary La Paz, Bolivia, and at the luxury resort The Hotel Matamoros located just a few hours outside of La Paz. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free in advance through https://www.netgalley.com for review. The story is told first person from the standpoint of travel writer Jacob Smalls. He has been enjoying himself on complementary hotel visits for some years, and making just enough actual money to get by.

An old girlfriend, Pilar Rojas, contacts him to help investigate the high profile disappearance of travel editor Hilary Pearson from the Hotel Matamoros. Pilar works PR for the hotel and is able to get him a free visit, ostensibly to write about the hotel. He is really going so that he can help her find Hilary, or at lest find out what happened to her. Not only does Jacob want to do this in the hopes of getting back together with Pilar, but Hilary was the editor that gave him his start.

Before leaving New York for Bolivia, Jacob visits Hilary’s family and her place of employment. He runs into Kenny Rawls, who worked with Hilary and has a crush on her. When Jacob heads to Bolivia, Kenny is on the same plane. He has taken off from work to go search for Hilary. Jacob takes Kenny under his wing as Kenny is clueless of Bolivian customs or Spanish.

Together they poke around La Paz for a couple of days looking for clues. They make contact with Pilar and she seems to have information, but puts off revealing much until later. Jacob and Kenny run into some dangerous men associated with the growing political party Condepa. The intrigue, mystery and danger just gets deeper once Jacob and Kenny finally arrive at the Hotel Matamoros.

The writing was good enough, and the pace of the story keeps the reader moving right along. I liked the basic plot of the story, but the way it was developed seemed shallow and simplistic. Both Jacob and Kenny were totally inept investigators, doing things that anyone with common sense would avoid. There were implications as to who was behind things and why, but the details were never entirely clear.

Over all I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Maxwell Street Blues”

“Maxwell Street Blues” was published in 2014 (August) and is the first of the “Jules Landau Mystery” series. It was written by Marc Krulewitch and it is his first novel. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free through https://www.netgalley.com for review. This story is told first person by Private Investigator Jules Landau, and is set in contemporary Chicago, IL. Jules’ estranged, ex-con father Bernie comes to him to let him know that Jules’ long time friend Charles “Snooky” Snook has been murdered, and hires him to investigate. This is Jules’ first murder investigation, but he is motivated to take it on as Snooky was like a brother to him.

Falling back on eight years of experience as a PI, and many contacts with the criminal elements of Chicago that go back for generations in his family, Jules digs into the case. Along the way he runs into the police detective Jimmy Kdigero that had put his father in prison years before as well as an Internal Affairs Detective Voss that is trying to get something on Jimmy.

Snooky was well known to the criminal element of Chicago. He was an accountant and handled the money of many of those criminals, generally finding a way to “launder” it. Jules discovers that a few of Snooky’s clients were involved in some sort of kick-back operation associated with real-estate development on Maxwell Street.

jules finds that there are several people with wealth and or reputations at stake, and both of the cops he encountered are far from being sqeaky clean. He is threatened and assaulted more than once as he pursues the murderer.

The pace of the story is good, never leaving the reader bogged down. It is also well written and the plot was reasonable. That being said, I only give it a 3.5 out of 5. There were loose ends that were never addressed, and some of the characters were poorly developed.

I didn’t particularly like the main character Jules. He also seemed an inept PI for someone who had been in the business for over eight years. Some situations where he should have had more of an emotional response were simply shrugged off. I am unlikely to read any more novels in this series.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Dead and Gone”

“Dead and Gone” (aka Blind Spot) was published in 2013 and was written by William Casey Moreton. Mr. Moreton has published seven novels. The eBook is available on Amazon.

I was alerted to this book being available for free on promotion through http://booksends.com. This is a mystery set in New York, New York, and is written in the third person. Nick Cortland is the primary character of the novel. He is an advertising executive who wakes up one morning with no memory and the dead body of a young woman laying on the floor next to his bed.

Nick cannot remember if he had anything to do with the girl’s death even as he begins to remember fragments of his life. Nick is desperate to find out how the girl was killed and is sure that the death of a close friend is connected in some way.

I enjoyed the 8.5 hours I spent reading this novel. The plot and characters were well developed, and there were some unexpected twists. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Death on Daytime”

“Death on Daytime” was published in 2014 (July) and was written by Tash Bell. This is her first novel and also the first of a planned series of mysteries around the lead character Tess Darling. I was alerted to this novel being available for free through http://readcheaply.com/. The book is available on Amazon.

This novel is a mystery set in contemporary London, England. I would rate it as ‘R’ as there is Mature Language and Mature Situations. It is mostly written in the first person from the view of Tess Darling, but there are occasionally other view points.

Tess is the producer of a weekly gardening segment on a popular mooring TV program. Her hostess for the show has not arrived and she hastily finds a replacement. As they begin the live telecast of the latest garden remake, the body of the missing hostess is discovered buried in the garden. Needless to say this causes an instant sensation for the TV program.

Reluctantly Tess is sucked into the investigation of her murdered hostess – to help her friends and to save their jobs. Along the way she discovers many secrets held by friends and co-workers, and is subject to danger herself. She also finds confidence in herself.

I enjoyed the nearly 10 hours I spent reading this novel. There is occasional use of British slang that is sometimes hard to understand, but on the whole I think that this was a well written mystery with several quirky but likable characters. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Other book reviews I have written can be found at https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/.

My book reviews are also posted on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).