Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Spirit of the Season

About four hours into my marathon pie-making session on Christmas Eve my son (aka the Evil Teenager) looked up from his computer and asked, "What are you doing?" I explained to him that there would be a lot of people working on Christmas day and I just wanted to do something nice for them. I hinted that maybe he might want to help--he didn't take the hint, so I tried something a little more straight forward, "Why don't you give me a hand? I need whipped cream and sprinkles on these." He looked up, but didn't get up. That was a little disappointing. I could tell from his look that he wasn't anxious to get involved.

About 10 AM Christmas morning, after gifts were opened, all the used wrapping paper gathered and hauled out to the recycle bin, I announced, "It's time to get dressed; it's gonna take about four hours to deliver the pies." I truly expected that he would push back, delay, make excuses . . . but, he didn't. He got up from the couch, went upstairs, changed out of his sleeping clothes into his jeans, came back down and said, "You know Dad, this is really a pretty cool thing you're doing."

I don't know that he'll ever understand the impact that sentence had--and, it got better. He didn't complain once during the trip. The weather was terrible, driving was treacherous, he couldn't use his iPad, but he didn't say one negative word. The topper was when he commented, "Yeah, I guess it's a not great to have to work today." I think he got it.

I hope my employees enjoyed the pies. We delivered 12 pistachio cream pies (with whipped cream and spinkles on top) to 10 different locations, got a lot of smiles and thanks, and it was gratifying. But, more important than all that, the Evil Teenager took a tiny step out of the dark into the light.:)

Friday, December 21, 2012

eBooks only 99 cents!

Great Christmas gifts---both Nook and Kindle editions of Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer and Friends and Foes? for only 99 cents through the end of the year. Great, wholesome family mystery and adventure.

Santa didn't bring you a Nook or a Kindle? Download free eReader software for your PC, MAC, tablet, or smartphone at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ignorant zealots, guns, God

I usually keep to myself on topics such as these; mainly because I have strong opinions and those who disagree with me are ignorant zealots who don’t respond to reason or logic. But, here goes: I’m watching the news, looking at the faces of the children all brutally murdered this week and I’m astounded that there are people out there, so stupid, that they believe the right to own a gun trumps the rights of these babies to live. The boy who killed them used his mother’s guns—guns she bought “for protection.” The zealots won’t see the irony (she was killed with those guns and then her crazed son used them to kill 26 more innocents). They’ll cling to their moronic pro-gun slogans, “Guns don’t kill people, blah, blah, blah.” I wonder if the killer would have been as efficient had he ‘pulled the trigger’ on a knife.

My heritage includes gun ownership, but I reject that part of my heritage. I buy my meat at the supermarket; I don’t have to protect my family from bears or mountain lions. I believe that desperate circumstances can drive men to desperate measures—in other words, I am prepared to kill or die to protect those I love; but, I will not own a gun no matter how slim the chance it might be used illicitly. Any of the zealots who think it can’t happen are just simply fools—twice this week multiple murders were committed with stolen guns. I’m also reminded, usually about this time of year, of my 16 year old nephew killed by an ‘unloaded’ handgun—a buddy ‘found’ it in a box in his father’s closet. I’m sure the zealots can defend that.

I’ve also heard that a “well-armed citizenry” is our best defense against crazed mass-murderers. Great idea! Let’s give M16s or TEC9s to the cafeteria ladies, janitors, and bus drivers at all the schools—that’ll make our children a lot safer. That’s called ‘sarcasm’—look it up.

There appears also to be great concern among the zealots that our ‘asshole’ president is going to take away their guns. First, I’m a patriot and I have too much love for my country and respect for my President and Commander-in-Chief to ever call him an asshole—I can respectfully disagree with him without resorting to name-calling. Second, the President couldn’t do that, even if he wanted to. But, that brings me to my point—something has to be done. Start at the top—gun manufacturers don’t make guns as an act of patriotism, to help zealots realize their constitutional rights. They make guns for the same reasons Apple makes iphones—to make profits for their owners; and, they vehemently deny any responsibility for where or how their guns are used. Gun dealers make the same denials—it’s not their problem that some gun buyers are not responsible owners. And, like I said in the beginning, the ignorant zealots believe their rights trump all others. Sad. Unless somebody from within the ‘gun culture’ steps up to make the necessary changes—then someone from without has to.

Worse than all this—I’ve seen several posts lately about God being banned from the schools (one said he was banned from the US)—and that being the reason He wasn’t there to protect the children. The 50 year-old court decision that banned prayer in school did not ban God. That notion is arrogant, absurd, and a grotesque insult to the babies who were murdered, to the parents who lost a child, the heroic teachers who died, and to God. Does He need someone’s permission to protect babies? Would God forsake these babies to prove a point? I don’t believe that. I’m not very religious, but I believe in a God that battles evil on our behalf, a God that does his best to protect the innocent, a God who does not need permission from the Supreme Court to watch over us. Nor, do I believe He’s so petty as to sacrifice children to make a point. If you disagree with the courts say so, but don’t blame God or the courts for this senseless slaughter. God tries hard, but sometimes evil prevails.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dreamland: Black Wolf, by Dale Brown

Dreamland: Black Wolf (Dreamland, #12)Dreamland: Black Wolf by Dale Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No offense to Dale, but the 'ale' was covered up with a price tag when I found the book at an airport news-stand and I thought, to myself, "Wow, a Dan Brown novel that I missed!" Though it wasn't a Dan Brown book it was still pretty good. The pace over the last half was very good--kept me turning pages, but overall it was a little predictable. You knew who the Black Wolf would be, you knew what he would do, you knew who would win---but it was still fun. I might go back and read some more of the Dreamland series. It was a fun read, suitable for most ages.



View all my reviews

Friday, September 14, 2012

THE RACE by Clive Cussler

The RaceThe Race by Clive Cussler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Isaac Bell is a pretty good character, modest, self-effacing, and with near super-hero type abilities. He can fly a plane (bought a plane and taught himself in about 5 minutes), he can shoot, ride, fight and of course romance. He's not the only good guy though, all the Van Dorn detectives are interesting, Isaac's fiancee, Marian is smart, sexy. The newspaper magnate, the cotton baron, the German/Italian aeroplane inventor---all fun characters. The story is good, better than Cussler's NUMA stories (the NUMA characters are good, too, but the stories are predictable).

The 'race' is about a race among the earliest airplanes and "drivers" across the continent and the Van Dorn guys trying to protect the not-so-innocent young female pilot, and .... sorry, that's all I can tell you.

I recommend this to all readers---good, wholesome action/adventure.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Garrett Files

The Garrett Files (Garrett Files, #1-3)The Garrett Files by Glen Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I thought, "These are pretty good stories. The weird characters don't add much--what's the point?." I couldn't really picture 'Dead Man' or the trolls, grolls, elfen breeds, but as I got deeper into the realm it all started to come together. By the time I finished Book 3 I had formed mental images of all the non-humans & the world in which they live, TunFaire, and I don't think the next book I read will be quite the same.

I highly recommend this to most any reader. The characters, Garrett, his off & on love interest from Book 2, Tinnie, the 'Dead Man, Garrett's friends are all good, the setting, once you get into it, is fascinating. These stories were published over 20 years ago, well before similar stories became the rage. Garrett is not a kid and the stories have a 'grown-up' feel, but if you like any of the current YA stuff or you like anything with human-ish monsters, super-natural stuff, wizards, fighting, I think you'll like Garrett.

Oh,did I mention there are vampires, too?

View all my reviews

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another YA Fantasy thrust upon me by my 13 year-old--and, another pretty good book. For some reason I know nothing about the ancient gods--my school didn't teach it, I didn't find it interesting enough to seek it out on my own. It feels accurate--as accurate as a fantasy can be--in terms of the roles and relationships of the gods and underlings. That probably made it more difficult to write; in so many other fantasies everything comes from the author's imagination--the names, super-powers, villians and there are no limits. This one uses existing names, powers, relationships and ties it all together nicely.

Whenever I read something like this I expect to be entertained, but I can't help but consider how this will impact my young son. Is there a clear distinction between right and wrong? Do the characters interact respectfully? Does the story reenforce good values, honesty, respect? Some may think I expect too much, that being entertained should be enough---I just simply disagree; and, since I'm paying for it I believe I have a right to expect more.

Percy is a decent kid, he loves his mother, he protects his friends--he's not perfect, but a decent kid. I doubt my teen will even realize there's a subliminal message here, but who knows?

I recommend the Olympians series to most any reader.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 3, 2012

Free Kindle Download, Great Family Adventure

Free Kindle eBook downloads of both Dan Madison and Mike Madison books, Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer and Friends and Foes? The free promotion begins Saturday, 6/15, at
midnight, and runs for two days ending at midnight Monday, 6/17. The adventures are "family friendly," and appropriate for parents and kids to share. Don't have a Kindle? Download free eReader software for your PC, Mac, iPad, or smartphone at Amazon.com! Check out Bracy Ratcliff's author page on Amazon! Thanks!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Sixth Man

The Sixth Man (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #5)The Sixth Man by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good story, imaginative, too real--it highlights the pre-9/11 scenario of parochial, arrogant security agencies, not communicating, not cooperating, not acting quickly, decisively. Sean and Michelle make a good couple, tough, sexy, relentless, but the story seems to flounder aimlessly for a while--maybe Baldacci didn't know where to go next--every witness, anyone helping, are all murdered. Eventually they connect the 6th man, the patriotic corporate exec, the ambitious, corrupt government official and manage to make the world safe, for now.

Though Sean and Michelle take the lead, brother and sister, Kelly and Roy, are really the more interesting pair.

I recommend this book to most any reader--my hat off to DB for writing it like I would, without profanity, minimizing the graphic scenes of death and dying.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 16, 2012

Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm very disappointed. After Fevre Dream I was really looking forward to another Martin story. My son read this--and that makes me more disappointed. First, Martin introduced perhaps 40 characters in the first few chapters, and I find that to be too many. They can't all be that important to the story; or, perhaps there are many stories, running parallel. I just don't find it entertaining. Next, I can't pronounce the names (except for King Robert). All the i's were replaced with y's, some a's and e's were replaced with ae's and I've never been sure how to say that. I think he's misusing some archaic words (sept, for example), but who would know, right? Then the Queen's lover (maybe her brother) tries to murder a 7-year old boy, another character trades his 12 year old sister into slavery (forces her to marry some barbarian) in exchange for an army so he can avenge his father's death.

I don't know where it's headed. There's ample good stuff in it: direwolves, boys becoming knights, girls unhappy with their status, some worthy heroes. All the references to 'black' or 'dark' stuff intended to set a mood, I think, don't add anything. Ned's illegitimate son is referred to by all as the "bastard", and I find that insulting. What's the point? Martin proved in other works that he has a great imagination, a mastery of words--but I don't think he did his best work here. It may be a great story; I just find it hard to read. I'm sure I'm not his target audience, but I read it to keep up with my 13 year old son--he shouldn't be the target audience either.



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Monday, July 9, 2012

The Colorado Kid

The Colorado KidThe Colorado Kid by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In many ways it was typical Stephen King--weird. It's a story of two old newspapermen telling a story, that isn't a story, to their young intern. The title character, The Colorado Kid, was found dead, years ago, but how he got to that little island off the coast of Maine, why he was there, what happened just before he died, would forever remain a mystery. So, the mystery had no beginning and no end--just a middle. And, that's the story. Weird, right?

In the Afterward King said, and I paraphrase, that "wanting to know" the answers to the mystery was more important and more satisfying than knowing. I agree with that, in this case. At the end, which wasn't an end, I didn't really care how the Colorado Kid made the nearly impossible trip from Colorado to Maine, in the time allowed; I didn't care what happened to his wallet, his suit coat, tie, or overcoat. I didn't care where he got the steak on which he choked to death or what happened to the piece he didn't eat. It doesn't matter to me where he got the Russian coin in his pocket. Murder, suicide? No one will ever know, and that's OK with me.

Most readers have probably had this experience--you read a really good story then it's over and you're a little sad and disappointed just because it's over. Not so, with this one--it can live on and on in your imagination. You can make it as simple or as complicated & sophisticated as your imagination allows. I have my own theory about the Kid's death, but I'll keep it to myself.

I recommend this to all readers.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer" only 99 cents!

Take advantage of this limited time offer--get to know the Madison clan in Volume 1 of The Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure Series. Both Kindle and Nook eBook editions will be available at the discounted price through the end of July. The Madisons and their growing group of friends tackle the mystery of an infamous train robber and a missing fortune in gold, a Voodoo curse, and a terrorist threat--and it takes all of their unique skills to keep the family, and the world, safe. NOOK KINDLE Don't have a Nook or Kindle? Download FREE eBook reader software for your PC, MAC, iPad, or Smartphone at Amazon.com OR Barnes and Noble.com. GHG

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Giveaway over--thanks to the 500+ who entered!

I have the names and addresses of the four who won a copy of Friends and Foes? and will mail them out today. One winner from the UK, one from Canada, two from the states--interesting. Watch for more low-price promotions. Visit my website, www.badhousebooks.com.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Last Chance! Enter NOW!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Friends and Foes? A Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure by Bracy Ratcliff
Enter to win

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Madison Adventures

I readily, humbly, admit I am an amateur novelist/writer. In the strictest sense, I guess, I turned pro when I sold the first copy of Mike Madison last October, but my skills are simply not big league (indulge me a baseball analogy). There's so much more to it than I first thought--it's not enough to have a good story and competent literary skills. It takes practice, perseverance, thick skin, imagination, and the ability to step back and take an objective, critical view of your work; and, if you go the self-publisher route that I've taken, it takes relentless self-promotion, something that I find a little embarrassing. Both recent releases are out there--on dozens of online retail sites, in eBook and paperback versions, but Amazon, for example, has over 8 million books available; so how do potential buyers find my books amidst the enormous mountain of stuff? I've read, and read, all the advice on building an online presence and I've sort of followed the suggestions. I have a blog on the biggest 'reader' site, I have a personal blog, I have a website, I have LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts--but, how do people find those? I have growing numbers of followers, contacts, on the social sites, but they don't seem interested--certainly not interested enough to buy. If you Google my name you'll get pages and pages of links to my sites, my book reviews, blog posts, but that hasn't helped. Next, I'm planning to send copies to my local newspaper and ask for reviews, I'll send some requests to a couple of popular blogs, and I may even do a little advertising. I have a coupon for some free Google ads and I've assembled some rudimentary video graphics for a Goodreads ad or you-tube post. An acquaintance who has had some modest success has recommended Facebook ads, so I may try that as well. It seems a lot of work, and expense, without much guarantee of results. The point of this is not just to whine that I'm not selling books (though that's a big part of it). It's more to offer my take, to anyone reading, on the art and business of book writing. It can be extremely satisfying to hold that first copy in your hands or to see it on the shelf with your name on the spine, but there's a tremendous likelihood that only you and your immediate family will read it. There are some tips I can offer that will increase your chances of success--write what's popular, include fantasy stuff--vampires, dragons, wizards, post-apocalypse world, and some graphic sex. Make a cover that would make my mother blush--something with scantily clad, well-endowed people, in a passionate embrace, or at least something suggestive. As an indie writer/self-publisher you'll not be successful trying to sell "G" rated novels (at least not today, in 2012). John Grisham can do it, but not a rookie no-name writer like me. But, I won't give up. Check out the great deals on Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer and Friends and Foes?

Review, "Fevre Dream" by George RR Martin

Fevre DreamFevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not have high hopes for this vampire story. I've seen dozens of movies, read dozens of books, even worn vampire costumes for Halloween parties--the subject is old and in my opinion over-done. However, this one was a little different. Joshua was, by the common definition, a vampire, but with a conscience. He fought and defeated the 'thirst' but fell prey to a more powerful bloodmaster; and, if not for his human friend might have died. The story is set in my favorite place in the world, along the Mississippi River and in the swamps around New Orleans. That was enough to keep me interested. I grew up in that part of the country, 100 years after the events in the book, but the swamps are still there, still mysterious, still hold secrets all these decades later. A lot of us share Captain Marsh's love for the River and the paddle-wheel steamers even though the only ones left anymore are strictly for tourist excursions. It still adds to the entertainment value, in my opinion.

What I found most appealing, though, was the struggle between good and evil. Julian, the evil bloodmaster, didn't see anything evil about his "species" killing to feed the blood lust--in his mind he, and his people, were a higher life form than humans and fed on humans (he called cattle) just as we eat beef or pork--and that made him all the more sinister. The friendship between Joshua and Captain Marsh proves as powerful as Julian's distorted Darwinism. The end is good, but not 'happy' by my definition.

I recommend this, and Martin's others in the genre, to most readers; though there are some controversial elements referred to that are part of life in the era and this might insult some readers.



View all my reviews

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Goodreads.com Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Friends and Foes? A Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure by Bracy Ratcliff
Enter to win

Friday, June 1, 2012

Official Release

Friends and Foes?


Volume 2 of the Dan Madison and Michael Madison Adventures is now available--follow the link above to buy directly from publisher.  Check Amazon.com for Kindle eBook edition.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Voodoo Terrorism, only 99 cents!

Wholesome Family Mysteries:  The Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure Series.  Mike and his Dad tackle a century old mystery of an infamous train robber and a missing fortune in gold, a voodoo curse, greedy corporate executives, & a terrorist plot.
 
Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer

Download the Kindle edition now through the end of May for just 99 cents!  Get to know the Madison clan now and watch for Volume II, Friends and Foes?, coming soon!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friends and Foes?

Just got the finished cover back from the designer and I think it's pretty good.  The book should be available in a couple of days on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.  Friends and Foes? is volume two in The Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure Series.  To get to know the Madisons check out Volume 1, Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BACK COVER BLURB FROM NEW NOVEL

Friends and Foes?

A Dan Madison and Mike Madison Adventure

In Volume I of the Madison Adventures, Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer, Mike, his dad, and their growing group of friends tackle a century-old mystery of an infamous train robber, a missing fortune in gold, a voodoo curse, and a high-tech terrorist plot.  That would be enough adventure for most families, but new friends and new neighbors bring more intrigue to the Madison clan.  Mike’s new classmate, Kathryn Harris, is hiding a heart-breaking secret about the death of her father, FBI agent Thomas Harris—and Mike can’t resist when she asks for help.  The new neighbors, Joyce and Jim Mills, have very quirky personalities.  Jim seems to be able to read minds and Joyce has this troubling, even frightening habit of “zoning out” as Mike’s mom, Melanie, describes it.  Worried that the Mills might be more than just simply annoying, Dan calls on the family’s network of friends—friends with unique, diverse skills.  Former covert operative & National Security advisor, Steve Jones, computer geeks, Paul and Liz King, and country lawyer, Del Reese all team up with the Madisons to confront these new mysteries.  The danger is real as the group encounters rogue FBI agents, a mad scientist, greedy government officials, professional assassins—and it takes all of the group’s considerable skills to keep everyone safe.   

Watch for Friends and Foes? Due out SOON on Amazon.com . . .

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Entrepreneur or Corporate Minion, Part 2

So, in spite of my good advice, you've decided to go into business for yourself?  If you are an expert in business law, contracts, accounting, marketing, manufacturing, shipping/receiving, asset management, purchasing, selling, sanitation and maintenance--and you have a whole lot of startup capital then you're all set.  Go for it, and good luck.  If you lack those skills or if you're a little under-funded you can still make it, but there are lots of variables.  It's tough to come up with a unique product or service, but that's a good way to start.  If you're a good seller, have a good business plan, a working prototype maybe you can find some investors--but, they'll want a solid return, soon, or a piece of the business.

Lots of people want to "own" restaurants and that's a great idea, but experts say that 60-90% of new restaurants fail within the first year.  Those numbers don't surprise me because I've done it--actually we lasted 15 months and would've made it if. . . .a bunch of bad stuff hadn't happened:  the freezer broke, a big convention cancelled, my breakfast chef fell off the wagon, a regular banquet group's check bounced--all on the same day when we were already short on cash, help, patience and energy.  My partner (wife) and I worked everyday from 5 AM until the bar closed at 2 AM for months.  We were young and strong and could have gone on, but, we agreed that we were not having fun.  It was hard work, hot, dirty, fast-paced, exhilerating, but I knew I'd never get rich.

I once read that the definition of an "amateur" business man is a machinist who opens a machine shop or a cook who opens a restaurant.  They have important skills, but not ALL of the skills needed to run a business.  I had the right background, I'd been the food & beverage manager for a busy hotel and had solid success running every part of that business--but, when I went out on my own (we went out on our own) everything changed.  We were under-capitalized and teetered on the brink from the beginning.  We saw solid growth over the first year, but when the catastrophic events hit all at once we just didn't have the resources to bounce back.

So, that's advice #2, get some skills and plenty of cash.  And, if you're thinking restaurant scroll down to my post about my leftover pork chops.

ghg

Friday, February 24, 2012

Entrepreneur or Corporate Minion? (Part 1)

The truth is that it's never as simple as that. I've been both and have concluded that for most of us, one is vastly superior to the other. As a business owner (and I've done it twice for several years each time) I never worked fewer than 7 days a week. I rarely worked fewer than 15 hours in a day. Forget the notion that you'll "be your own boss." Your schedule will be dictated by vendors, customers, and employees. When we could afford employees they cost twice what the job is worth thanks to employment taxes and insurance. Suppliers raise prices, delay deliveries, ship lower quality product; customers want faster delivery, lower prices, better quality and you're squeezed between the opposing forces.  I loved it, but it didn't give me the life I really wanted--the business was my life, which upon reflection was not the life I wanted.

Now I work for one of the largest companies on earth, admittedly very far down the food chain.  I have 200 employees who serve over 10,000 customers per day.  And, yes, that leads to significant levels of stress and anxiety--very similar to my entrepreneur experience.  The difference, however, is that I now have an army of support--we call them SME's, or Subject Matter Experts.  I have HR professionals, merchandisers, accountants, regulatory compliance experts, corporate security professionals, maintenance and construction project managers--dozens of people backing me up.  That level of support allows me to focus on what I do best without all the distractions.  I successfully manage a multi-million dollar budget and once I embraced the different mind-set, employee vs. owner, I've found it to be just as rewarding as when I was the owner.  It's not perfect--I can't often leave it behind at the end of the day.  I still bring work home with me, but thanks to the support structure I get real vacation days, real time off, occasionally; and, the company helps pay my health insurance, contributes to my 401K, and a pension fund--all benefits that few small business owners enjoy.

I could go on (& on) with the comparison, but what it boils down to is that you can realize real freedom and satisfaction working for a big company and in many ways it's better than "being your own boss."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

John Grisham

I intended to keep my book reviews separate from my personal blog--but this is personal.  I just read Grisham's Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer and my "objective" opinion is that Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer is just as good.  Here's my review:


Theo Boone is a lot like Mike Madison, the main character in my book, Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer.  They're the same age, both smart, curious, relentless in the pursuit of the truth; and, they both know when to bring in Mom, Dad, and friends.  I've read everything Grisham has published, but was really waiting for my 13 year-old son to read this one first (he bought it with his allowance).  Then today I ran out of reading material and there it was--I finished it in about 3 hours.  Admittedly, Grisham did a better job developing Theo--his character and personality, but Mike's pretty good, too.  And, Grisham is one of the great story-tellers of our time.  It's likely I'm not being totally objective, but I'm stunned by how well Mike Madison compares to Kid Lawyer.  If you like Kid Lawyer, you'll like Mike Madison, Intrepid Explorer and Friends and Foes?, the soon-to-be released Volume II of the Madison Adventures.  They are good stories, well told, likeable characters, and wholesome, family adventures. 



Check out my Goodreads Author page to see all my reviews.

Monday, January 30, 2012

We are not better informed, are we?

My 13 year-old son and I had an interesting conversation recently--the kind of chat that parents have with teenagers.  He insists that since we get more news and it comes faster that we're better informed than when I was his age--and I vehemently disagree.  Yes, it's a fact that the news comes faster and there's a lot more of it, but I firmly believe that our one newspaper, The New Orleans "Times Picayune," and our three network TV stations, and an occasional "Life" or "Look"--provided all the news I needed (all the news fit to print, to borrow the NY Times motto).  He argues, "Yeah but Dad, you told me you only got ONE baseball game a week on TV!"  And, I counter, "Yeah but Son, I read the box scores in the paper the next day--and it was "NEWS" to me."  Of course, we also had radio--I could catch a game just about any night on WWL.  He acquiesced, "OK, but what about political news--how would you know who to vote for?"  I explained, "I ignore 90% of the political stuff I see or hear now, and it wasn't a whole lot different "back in the day."  My first opportunity to vote was the  Nixon/McGovern election--it's not like I had only an hour or so to decide.  I got all the info I needed to make an informed decision---in plenty of time."  He shifted to "entertainment" news and I was able to quickly shut that down--even he agreed we can go forever without another story of what celebrity made a fool of him or herself-- again. 

I could go on, but the point is that I don't need, don't want most of the "news" available to me today.  I sift through it to find the real news stories, but I ignore 90+% of everything on the cable channels, the Internet--the crap makes it HARDER to be well informed on important topics, not easier.  What do you think?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Evils of Texting

Texting is not a tool to improve productivity or efficiency. It is not more convenient than other forms of communication. It is a toy, a dangerous, development-arresting, cowardly game. The problem is more apparent in young people, I expect, but universal--texting (and email for that matter) allows, even encourages people to say things they would never have the courage or strength of character to say 'face to face.' Texting is reminiscent of the notes we used to pass behind the teacher's back in 5th grade, "I like you, do you like me?" At some point you learn that you can't communicate via notes any longer, so you finally muster the courage to stand face to face and ask, "you wanna go to the movies?" And, it's a monumental accomplishment--character building (especially if she says 'no').

Texting does for people what cars do for many. People who would never cut in front of you standing in line at the bank or the supermarket will suddenly be stronger, braver, and more assertive behind the wheel of a car--and cut in front of you into a turn lane on the freeway. But, that new found strength and courage go away when they step back out into the real world. Texting gives a similar false strength to people--and it frightens me to think that they might never step back out into the real world. If they don't have the courage to say something, face to face, they shouldn't be texting it (after 6th grade).

Yeah, I'm old, but that's not why I don't like texting. I watch my young son "making friends" via texting, IM'ing, chat-rooms, electronic social networks, and it's wrong on so many levels. Those people aren't friends, they're no more friends than an imaginary playmate. That's one reason I don't like texting. Another reason, is that I finally got the courage to talk face to face with people (it took a while, but I've been doing it pretty well for nearly 50 years) and it can be exhilarating--especially with girls. Nothing is better than seeing the smile on my sweetheart's face when I tell her how pretty she looks today--I suppose she'd smile if I sent her a text, but I wouldn't get to see it.

GHG