Book Review of “Unlucky Double”

“Unlucky Double” was published in 2014 and was written by D. R. Breland (http://dbreland.wix.com/darrylbreland). This is Mr. Breland’s first publication, and is the first part of his “Adventure’s of Lucky Luciano’s Double” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there is Violence. The Thriller novel is written in the first person and is set in various American and European cities beginning in the 1920s and stretching out into the first years of WWII. The main character is Giovani Cado, a Sicilian who grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Cado was part of organized crime in New Orleans from an early age. By chance, he meets fellow mobsters from Chicago and New York at a business dinner in New Orleans. They comment on what a remarkable resemblance Cado has to Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Soon Cado is summoned to New York to become Luciano’s double.

Caro works on and off for several years as Luciano’s double. Along the way he marries a Sicilian woman, Maria. Caro is involved with a big deal, but sees his chance and makes off with millions. He and his wife are hiding under assumed names in France when the Germans invade. Thinking Dado is Luciano, the Germans make him their pawn.

This is a relatively short (it took be only 2.5 hours to read it) story that intertwines the American gangsters of the 20’s and 30’s, with Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. I liked the characters as they are portrayed, and the general idea of the plot. Where I see it falling short, is it’s abrupt end. The way it is laid out it is more of a serial piece than a stand alone story. Overall all though I give this novel a 3.5 (rounded up to 4) out of 5.

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

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Book Review of “The Free”

“The Free” was published in 2014 and was written by Brian Ruckley (http://www.brianruckley.com). Mr. Ruckley has published 6 novels.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there is Violence. The novel is written in the third person and is set in a mythical land. The primary characters are Drann, Yulan and Morve.

Drann is a 17 year old that has left his village to join Lord Creel’s army. He is new to fighting and barely survives his first battle. But because he seemed to act to save Lord Creel, he is set to cary the contract between Lord Creel and The Free. Lord Creel has set The Free to intercept Callotec before he can reach Empire lands.

Yulan is the current Captain of The Free, the last of the sanctioned mercenary armies in the Kingdom. He and the others are ready to disband at last, but a offer of contract comes from Lord Creel that Yulan cannot turn down. The handful of remaining Free soldiers commit to follow Yulan this one last time. Partly because of their faith in Yulan. Partly because the contract will both erase a black mark against The Free, and prevent the dreaded Empire from gaining the edge they need to take over the Kingdom.

More is head mistress of The School. The School is where those adept in magic, the Clevers, are trained. She also has at her disposal the Clade, the school’s army led by Sullen.

This Fantasy novel reminds me a little of The Black Company books by Glen Cook. There is a great deal of battle, both with magic and sword, as The Free attempts to stop the last with royal blood, Callotec, from committing further atrocities and carrying a powerful object of magic to the Empire. They must also deal with Sullen and his army who is committed to destroying The Free.

I thought that the magic used in the novel was creative. I think that a little more depth of the characters could have been developed, but overall I liked most of the characters that were introduced. The plot was not exceptional, but it made for a good read. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

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

Book Review of “Starheart”

“Starheart” was published in 2014 and was written by Greta van der Rol (http://gretavanderrol.net). Ms. Van Der Rol has published more than a dozen novels and this is her third novel in the “Ptorix Empire” series.

I obtained a galley of this Science Fiction/Mystery/Romance novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize 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 a far future where space travel is common place. The primary characters are Jestinia ‘Jess’ Sondijk and Admiral Ullric Hudson.

Sondijk is a space freighter Captain, who stays mostly on the law abiding side, but has been know to smuggle things from time to time. Her husband had been ‘accidentally’ killed almost two years earlier in a search of the ship by planetary militia.

Sondijk’s ship is now stopped and searched at the direction of Star Fleet Admiral Hudson, though nothing is found. After they meet for the first time, Sondijk realizes she has stirred in the Admiral a more than professional interest in herself.

Sondijk and her First Officer Senth Dijkstra begin to look more closely at the death of her husband. Sondijk finds herself being the object of Admiral Hudson’s attention, and is suddenly thrown into deadly situations where she and the Admiral are fighting for their lives. Sondijk, Dijkstra, and Admiral Hudson all find themselves uncovering a large scale conspiracy, and find their lives in danger.

The Sondijk character is a little brash, tending to act before thinking things through. She is a strong female character though. Admiral Hudson is a strong male character who seems to take his command right to the edge of his authority, if not occasionally a little beyond.

I was a little leery of this novel at first due to it’s ‘Romance’ tag, but I found that it was only a small part of the story. The plot was not the most complex that I have read, but I did enjoy the 8 or so hours I spent reading the novel. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

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

Story Review of “Legacy”

“Legacy” was published in 2014 (December) and was written by J. G. Faherty (http://www.jgfaherty.com). This is Mr. Flaherty’s fifth publication.

I obtained a galley of this story for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this story as ‘PG13’ due to it’s dark nature. The story is written in the first person and is set in contemporary New England, USA. The primary character is Sean Black.

Black is a teenage science and math whiz, about to graduate early from High School. Other than that, he leads a pretty normal life, that is until the night of the storm. He has strange nightmares and imagines strange creatures. Then he begins to see changes in his body that none around him seem to notice.

Black finds a hidden room in the town library and reads there a collection of books that tell a strange history of his town. Leaving the library, he realizes he is at a decision point in his life. He can fight what is coming, save humanity, probably dying in the process. Or he can give in to his legacy, have the girl of his dreams, and rule a world plunged into chaos. What will he do?

This Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Short Story was a little on the strange side, very dark. It reminded me a little of stories written by Dean Koontz and Stephen King. It only took about 90 minutes to read, and it was well written. I have to say though, that I am not a Short Story fan. Had this story been expanded into a full novel I would have liked it more. I give it a 4 out of 5.

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

November 2014 Austin IEEE Computer Society Meeting

Last night I attended the monthly Austin IEEE Computer Society Meeting. The topic was “Matching job seekers to job opportunities: A big problem with a big data solution” presented by Wayne Lee of Swipejobs. Swipejobs is an Austin-based developer of a “mobile app platform connecting job seekers with employment opportunities via social media activity, user clickstream, data on companies and jobs, along with advance analytics“.

Mr. Lee made a good presentation of the general data techniques that the company was using and how Big Data has been processed by others in the past. He also discussed the information and data associations that can be gleaned from available social media. He talked about how Swipejobs was using techniques similar to the matching algorithms dating sites use, to provide the job seeker with job postings that were a better match. 

While it is still in Beta, the Swipejobs App is available on both the iPhone and Google Play stores if you are interested in trying it out. I downloaded it this morning and will be interested in seeing how it works out.

Story Review of “The Enchanted Rib”

“The Enchanted Rib” was published in 2014 and was written by George Roberts. This is Mr. Roberts first publication.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this Romantic Fantasy short story as ‘G’.

This is primarily the story of James Sanford and two women he comes to know. Sanford runs into Jane Aston while at a art/antique show. They become friends and soon Sanford is introduced to Jane’s friend Lavinia. Sanford and Lavinia turn out to be saviors of an ancient city, lovers who were torn apart and are now reunited.

I have little to say about this story. It took about 90 minutes to read and at that I feel it was time I was cheated out of. The characters seemed stilted and stiff. The plot meandered and I do not feel there was much point to the story. I give this novel a 1 out of 5.

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

Book Review of “Paradigm Lost”

“Paradigm Lost” was published in 2014 (December) and was written by Ryke E. Spoor (http://grandcentralarena.com). Mr. Spoor has published 11 novels.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘PG13’ as there is some Mature Language and Violence. This Fantasy Paranormal Mystery novel is written in the first person and is set primarily in New York, though not exactly on our Earth. The primary character is Jason Wood, a private investigator/information specialist.

Wood is involved in one after another of investigations that gradually draws him and his girlfriend Sylvia Stake, into the heretofore unknown world of the paranormal. They soon find that our world is home to vampires, werewolves and other paranormal creatures. Some of these are friendly, and others very deadly.

There is a bit of Mystery as Wood and his friends pursue various investigations. There is a significant portion of Fantasy and the Paranormal as we discover the strange tale of where the vampires and werewolves came from.

This is not the typical novel that I read. Even though I watched every episode of “True Blood”, stories with vampires, werewolves and other paranormal creatures are not my usual selection. This book is more of a tightly connected set of short stories than it is a novel, and from the preface, these were originally written between 1987 and 2001. The basis of the book is Spoor’s story “Digital Knight”.

I thought that the plot was interesting. I liked the origin story of the vampires and other paranormal beings. The characters though, seems a little thin, they do not have the richness I have found in other novels. Overall I give this novel a 3.5 (rounded up to 4) out of 5.

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

Book Review of “Olympus”

“Olympus” was published in 2014 and was written by James Ashton. Mr. Ashton has written three novels.

I was alerted by http://booksends.com that this Thriller novel was available for free on Amazon. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there is Mature Language and Violence. The novel is written in the first person and is set primarily in contemporary Canada. The primary character is Peter York.

York is an former journalist and is called into the hospital to see his former boss, William Ardell. Ardell asks York to use his investigative journalist skills to find a woman who had earlier visited Ardell in the hospital. At first York resists, but he is enticed by the offer of $500,000.

York reluctantly allows Ariel’s daughter to assist with his investigation, and he soon finds that he ha feeling of the young woman. They are soon facing murder and conspiracy.

There did seems to be quite a few editorial errors with the copy of the book that I read, and it seemed a little “loose”. I overall did enjoy the 6.5 hours I spent reading the novel. As with most Thrillers, there were many twists and turns in the plot. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

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

Mac OS X – My Net – Network Scanner

Mac OS X - My NetI came across this OS X App this morning in an email from TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog). The App is simple, it just scans the network that your Mac is on and reports what devices it finds on the network. While I would not classify this as a “must have” App, there are times when it may be useful. Since the price was recently reduced from $1.99 to Free, I thought I would try it.

It certainly seems to work as advertised. I installed it through the app Store and, after clicking on the “Start Scan” button, it discovered all of the devices on my home network. When I powered up my wife’s laptop and told it to scan the network again, My Net saw
it had been added to the network as well. My Net – Network Scanner can be currently downloaded from the Mac App Store for free.


Read my other Mac OS X Articles


Mac OS X – OnyX – System Maintenance Tool and Optimizer

I have been a fan of OnyX (http://www.onyxmac.com) for some time now. As the OnyX website claims:

OnyX is an all-in-one system maintenance tool and optimizer. It is a very simple and light application that comes with a variety of maintenance tools that can be run to make sure that you are enjoying your system at its fullest.The first scans that OnyX will make automatically when you run the application for the first time are a S.M.A.R.T status check of your hard drives and the analysis of your startup discs. If the application detects any problems, it will prompt you to carry out a reparation task.

Not everything that OnyX can do deals with hard drives, though. In the main window, there are five categories. The first one is hard drive analysis and restoration, but the following
ones allow you to repair the permissions of your system (a common problem with Macs), clear your browser settings, cache, passwords, etc., delete application, user and system caches, and more.

An array of more advanced features is also available. Those allow you to hide or show volumes, repair discs, run custom scripts, among others. OnyX comes with extensive help and it
even includes a glossary with the information about many tasks.

Onyx_screen1

I have been running OnyX on a regular basis to keep my Mac Mini “clean” for a few months now. It does take several minutes to run, as it scans the entire hard drive, so the larger the drive, the
longer OnyX will take to run. I have been using the Automation option, taking the default settings, which will run several tasks without needing you to tell OnyX to “Continue”. I always recommend that you back up your Mac before running any program such as OnyX, but I have had no issues with it thus far. The latest version of OnyX, 2,9, is compatible with OS X Yosemite.

This is a tool that I recommend everyone install and run on a regular basis.

NOTE: (1/14/15) I have seen Onyx affect Safari on a couple of occasions, leaving the Sharing icon with “No Services”. I had to apply a fix from the command line to restore them.


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