Review of “Target Ahead”


“Target Ahead” eBook was published in 2016 (originally published on paper in 1982) and was written by Richard Townshend Bickers ( Mr. Bickers has published more than 50 books about air power.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘G’. This novel is set in the first few months (1939) of World War II. The primary character is 18 year old RAF Sergeant Peter Elmwood.

The story is of Elwood and his crew mates flying early missions against Germany in the Whitley bomber. Considering what many crews faced later in the war, this crew had it relatively easy. In this story none were serious injured, though they had three aircraft severely damaged by enemy fire.

I enjoyed this relatively short 5.5 hour read of 192 pages. I found it odd that there was no seat for the co-pilot in the Whitley that they flew. This book gives an interesting look at the early days of the war. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Mars Space Station in the Works

An interesting look at Mars exploration concepts


A manned mission to Mars was once the stuff of science fiction, now it is the equivalent of this generation’s Apollo Program. It will take a Herculean effort to send astronauts on a journey of hundreds of millions of miles to another planet. NASA plans to have such a mission take place in the 2030s. Lockheed Martin has now announced plans to help this along by placing a space station in orbit around Mars in twelve years. They call it the Mars Base Camp.

What Will the Space Station Look Like?

It appears that the current plan for the Mars Base Camp is to string together a series of modules in a fashion similar to the International Space Station (ISS). The personnel main components seem to be two Orion deep space vehicles, a habitat module and a lab module. It also has fuel/oxidizer tanks, solar arrays, heat radiators and propulsion. One of…

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The World’s Top Bookstores I

I have been to Munro’s and it is a nice book store

Cafe Book Bean

images (4)There are so many wonderful and unique bookstores all over the world and I want to showcase the most amazing. It was hard to keep this to a reasonable list, so this is Part 1 of 2. Also, I focused on uniqueness, intrigue, and wow factors.

Here are my picks for the Top Bookstores in the World:

burnside-map-2015 - EditedPowell’s City of Books
(Portland, OR)

Powell’s is legendary;
The City of Books (headquarters) takes up an entire city block;
it has 68,000 square feet, nine (color-coded) rooms, three floors, and 3,500 sections. This Flagship location is the world’s largest used book store (carrying new and used, over 1 million books) and said to be the largest independent chain of bookstores on the planet.

They even provide a map for navigating the “city.” It is an amazing store, and one of my favorite places. I am a Portland local and adore this store, but although I am…

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Review of “Visitor”


“Visitor” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by C. J. Cherryh (aka Carolyn Janice Cherry) ( Ms. Cherryh has published more than 70 novels. This is the 17th novel in her ‘Foreigner’ series.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The novel is set in the far future where humanity has spread to the stars and in some cases, has lost the path home to Earth. The main character is Bren Cameron. Cameron is an emissary of both the human president of Mospheria and the Atevi leader.

He is an interpreter and diplomat. He represents all parties to arrive at an acceptable, peaceful resolution of issues. In prior volumes of this series, Cameron traveled to the station Reunion to rescue humans stranded there. They had been unexpectedly attacked by an unknown race, the Kyo.

Through Cameron’s efforts, his ship was allowed to rescue the surviving humans. Now home at Alpha Station, Cameron and the others find that a Kyo ship in in route to ‘visit’. Cameron is tasked to handle the visitors and avoid a war with this strange species. He must work hard with the visitors to learn one another’s languages.

The fear is that with their proven superior weapons, the visitors can cause significant damage to both Alpha and the Atevi home world. While Cameron struggles to achieve enough language skills to effectively communicate with the Kyo, he must also ease tensions and prevent an attack like Reunion Station suffered.

I enjoyed the 13.5 hours I spent reading this 376 page novel. Since it is one in a series (there are 16 previous volumes) it was a little hard to pick up and read on its own. There was a reasonable overview in the first chapter, but it took a while for me to get used to the strange names and the back history. While this is a Science Fiction novel, it is more of a political Thriller in the story content. The story was a little slow, but I did enjoy it and would read others in this series. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Review of “Cadet Cruise”

I accessed the short story “Cadet Cruise” from Baen books ( I categorize this Science Fiction short story as ‘G’. This is set in the ‘Cinnabar Empire’. The primary character is Cadet Daniel Leary.

Cadet Leary works with RCN officers and local authorities to catch a ring of thieves that have been taking advantage of other Cadets. The story had more potential than could be developed in the short format. I give this short story a 3 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Review of “Arena”


“Arena” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by Holly Jennings ( This is Ms. Jennings first full novel.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence, Mature Language and Mature Situations. This Science Fiction Young Adult Romance is set in 2054 Los Angeles, California.

The primary character is Kali Ling. She, and four others in their early twenties, make up the team Defiance which is competing in the RAGE Tournaments. These are immersive Virtual Reality gaming competitions. The games are 5 on 5 bloody fights to the death with axes swords and similar weapons. The contestants feel the pain as they are hacked or stabbed. They all have ‘died’ in the game many times.

Ling and her teammates are now in the National championship competition. Winning will net them riches and world wide celebrity status. Just as they begin the playoffs, Ling’s lover and team mate, Nathan Saunders, dies of a drug overdose. The circumstances though are covered up in the press.

Naturally Ling is distraught. Her anxiety is heightened when she is unexpectedly named the team captain and must work hard to integrate a new player, James Rooke, into the team. Now that he is dead, the team owner, the gaming league and the press act as if Saunders never existed.

For Ling it is a battle on many fronts: Can she lead her team to victory in the championship; Can she make the public remember Saunders; Can she bring to light the excesses and pressures on the players; Can she overcome her own substance abuses; and Can she deal with her growing feelings for Rooke.

This was an interesting 7+ hour read of the 335 page novel. It was more romance than I typically like, but the story was engaging. The concept of competitive gaming was far from unbelievable, given the current state of technology and interest. I did have a problem with the concept of avatars being limited to the physical abilities of the actual players. I certainly liked that aspect of the story, but in a universe where the drug tests were routinely being spoofed, how hard would it be to fudge the skills of a player? I give this novel a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Review of “The Midnight Assassin”


“The Midnight Assassin” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by Skip Hollandsworth ( The book is available on Amazon.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. This Non-Fiction History tells the story of a series of killings. The murders took place between December 1884 and December 1885 in Austin, Texas.

Starting on December 25, 1884 a number of brutal attacks against women took place. The attacks left the women of Austin terrified. The killer seemed to be able to move silently and unobserved through the night. While there were a hand full of survivors, none could give much in the way of a description.

The attacks ended as abruptly as they had begun. Coincidentally, Jack the Ripper began his reign of terror in London only a couple of years later. There was serious speculation at the time that these two killing sprees might be related.

I do not read too many Non-Fiction books and in particular books about True Crime. This one caught my eye as I have lived in the greater Austin area since 1975. Having now read the book, I find it astonishing that this series of murders were so widely covered in the media of the 1880s, yet I had never heard of it.

I went through K-12 grades in Texas schools, and have lived in Texas for all but a year since 1955. I have lived in the Austin area and visited many of the locations that are mentioned. Yet in all that I had not heard of these events. I thoroughly did enjoy the 6 hours I spent reading this 336 page book. While the story is history, the author made it a compelling read. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Apple Watch News #2 – Why They Are Not Worn, Apps Must be Native and Wearables Dominance


There seems to have been more stories about the Apple Watch in the past few weeks. Perhaps because it is now just over one year old.

Why people are not wearing their Apple Watches

CNET asked some of their editors who owned Apple Watches how they felt about them after a year. The full article is “7 reasons people aren’t wearing their Apple Watch“, but the seven reasons are:

1) It does not do enough
2) There are limited strap options
3) The phone is faster
4) It is too complicated
5) It has uninteresting Apps
6) Just not for me, do not like to be constantly connected
7) There is no killer feature

Of that list the only objections I can even partially agree with are #1 and #7. I had stopped wearing a watch years ago, but now wear my Apple Watch every day. I will not say that it is essential to me, but I would surely miss it if I had to give it up.

Apps must be native

Starting June 1 all Apps being submitted to the App store must be native, that is they must run without a tethered iPhone.

This may limit what some Apps can do, but in the long term I think it is best for the platform.

Wearables Market

Business Insider in “The Apple Watch is winning in the battle of fitness trackers” claims that smart watches, such as the Apple Watch, are capturing a growing share of the wearables market, taking market share from the fitness-bands. They also predicted that by 2020 the Apple Watch will make up about 40% of the luxury-watch ($350+) market.

That really sounds like the ‘failure’ that many have branded the Apple Watch.

Review of “Cold Barrel Zero”


“Cold Barrel Zero” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by Matthew Quirk ( Mr. Quirk has published three novels.

I received a galley of this novel for review through I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains several scenes of Violence. This Thriller is set in contemporary California and the primary character is Thomas Byrne. Byrne served with Special Operations as a medic, but left that world and became a trauma surgeon.

Now, long from the Special Ops world, he is reluctantly drawn in to a terrorist plot here is the US. Byrne is first accused of helping a former colleague, John Hayes, who is said to have gone rogue and is tied to the terrorist plot in the US. Colonel Riggs, who was at one time Hayes’ commander, finally seems convinced that Byrne and his girl friend are innocent. He calls on Byrne to help them bring Hayes to justice.

Byrne once released, is grabbed by Hayes and his team. They tell an entirely different story. One that implicates Colonel Riggs. Byrne is unsure who, if either of them are telling the truth. Byrne must stay free, keep from getting killed and protect his girl friend. Ultimately he is faced with deciding who he believes and help them thwart the terrorist plot.

I enjoyed the 7 hours I spent reading this 384 page novel. There was lots of action and it was kept in the realm of believability. The plot was well laid out and it was not clear until towards the end of the novel who Byrne should believe. I was a little surprised at the ending. I had thought that events were being lined up for a sequel, but the plot thread was wrapped up by the end of the book. I give this novel a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Space News #3 -Space Travel in Sci-Fi, Entrepreneurs in Space, Robot Repair Satellite and Space Habitat Ideas Sought

A few more items I have come across in the past few weeks. Seems like more interesting articles in the news than I can cover.

A History of Sci-Fi Space Travel

Well, this isn’t science, but it is interesting how Science Fiction has addressed space travel over the years. The article “Reaching for the stars: a brief history of sci-fi space travel” I think does a good overview. I think that it is good to mix a little fiction – what we are dreaming of doing – with fact – what we can do today. We just need to be clear which is which.

The next target for entrepreneurs: Space

We have seen several space related companies being formed over the past few years = SpaceX, Firefly Space Systems, Virgin Galactic are just a few. These companies plan to provide launch services and possible space tourism opportunities.

In particular there is a growing market for launching small satellites. The article “The Next Frontier For Ambitious Entrepreneurs: Space” discussed the growth of the space industry as well as some of the investors willing to back these entrepreneurs.

Navy robot repair Satellite

The US Navy is partnering with DARPA and is proposing to build, launch and operate a satellite that can repair or upgrade other satellites. The program is called the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program.

With RSGS Robotic Service Vehicles (RSV) in orbit and waiting instructions, satellites that are damaged by space debris, have failed components, or which need an upgrade can be serviced under ground control. The RSV missions could include:

  • ultra-close inspection
  • anomaly resolution
  • orbit modification
  • external upgrades

A more detailed description of what RSGS and the RSVs may be able to do is contained in “How the Navy’s orbiting robots will refurbish civilian satellites” and “Program Aims to Facilitate Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites“.

Still in the proposal stage, it will be years before these can be launched.

NASA is seeking ideas for deep space habitats

NASA has announced long range plans for a mission to Mars. They have now announced that they are seeking proposals for the habitat that can carry astronauts on the journey to Mars or other locations in the solar System. Companies and universities now have until June 15th to submit their ideas.