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Florida – pros and cons

Pros:
no snow
hot weather
beaches
bikinis
cruises
nice roads

Cons:
George Zimmerman within 100 miles of my house
alligators
sharks
brain-eating amoeba
humidity
skin cancer risk
blinding rain
storms

Hellooooooo, everyone!

It’s been a while since I published an e-book, but now there’s a new addition to my growing e-book empire. Ladies and gentlemen and all the conscientious objectors to the binary gender code, I humbly present to you my latest (and greatest!) e-book: Buffett’s Biggest Blunders: The Greatest Investor’s Greatest Mistakes.

Warren Buffett is without a doubt the greatest investor of our time. A humble, down-to-earth man with a talent for mathematics and analysis, he’s managed to build a $350 billion empire known as Berkshire Hathaway in 50 years. He’s a voice of reason, a paragon of patience, the living proof that one can attain wealth without day-trading or memorizing arcane formulas.

His successful trades, business purchases and arbitrage maneuvers have been analyzed time and again. Most Buffett fans know about his brilliant investment in See’s Candies or his lifelong love affair with Geico insurance. At the same time, however, there’s relatively little focus on the investments and business deals where he ended up losing.

It’s impossible to truly understand one’s investing strategy without examining one’s mistakes alongside the successes. They are two sides of the same coin. Both must be studied in order to get a full picture. Instead, even though Buffett has been remarkably open and candid about the mistakes he’s made along the way, very few pay attention to them and learn by analyzing his actions.

Did you know, for example, that once upon a time Warren Buffett paid his shareholders a dividend? That he briefly invested in Disney but then changed his mind? That he tried and failed to corner the market on stamps – and chose not to become a car collector? Those are just a few of the 30 investing blunders contained within this book.

This book collects 30 summaries of Warren Buffett’s investments that went awry. With summaries, charts and commentary from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger themselves, “Buffest Biggest Blunders” provides an excellent opportunity to learn from the greatest investor’s greatest mistakes – and to become better investors by learning about the missteps of the Oracle of Omaha.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about his investing methods and foibles, this is the book for you. (Or, if you’re more of a 1,000-page book person, I highly recommend Buffett’s biography “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder.) If you’re new to investing and don’t want to lose your hard-earned cash, “Buffett’s Biggest Blunders” might just save you from making egregious investing mistakes. Or, if you’re going to join me at this year’s 50th annual shareholder convention in Omaha (also known as “Woodstock for capitalists”) and don’t want to be lost when Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger start reminiscing about their mistakes, you’ll probably want to skim my book and learn all about it.

And did I mention that it’d make an excellent present for your business-oriented loved ones? If they don’t have a Kindle, they can still read the book on a Kindle app. I have it on good authority that it works on any device that has a screen and an Internet connection. (And pretty soon, the screen will be optional!)

I’m always interested in hearing from my readers, so if you buy my book and love it, I would enjoy getting a 5-star review from you on my book’s Amazon page. I hope you enjoy reading my book every bit as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Happy reading!

“Writers of the Future Volume 31″ is this year’s collection of 13 best sci-fi stories by new writers. The stories (most of which are quite enjoyable) are interspersed with occasional essays on writing by L. Ron Hubbard, Orson Scott Card, etc. Overall, the collection had some nice gems and should give every sci-fi fan hours of enjoyment. (Or days, if you’d like to stretch it out!) Each story has an amazing illustration to go with it. The artists are featured alongside the authors, so who knows – maybe this book will be the big break they need.

Brief reviews:
“Switch” by David Farland – a cop using mental performance-enhancing drug is on the case to find the drug’s manufacturer after a series of violent crimes. Interesting if you’re into police stories and action movies.

“The God Whisperer” by Daniel J. Davis – what if people had minor gods as pets? Funny and creative story – shame it was so short, because there’s definitely enough potential for a book.

“Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light by Sharon Joss – a teenage girl from a space colony of genetically modified humans discovers an intelligent lifeform in her backyard. The story has a Young Adult feel to it and it’s beautifully written.

“When Shadows Fall” by L. Ron Hubbard – a 1948 story about three men’s attempts to save a dying, suffocating Earth in the distant future. An enjoyable yet unusual story written more like a parable.

“A Revolutionary’s Guide to Practical Conjuration” by Auston Habershaw – a teenager acquires a magical book to, well, learn magic and right the wrongs in his society (and his gang). Creative and entertaining, with a great twist at the end.

“Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang” by Tim Napper – a deal between a Vietnamese gangster and a young woman who wants to smuggle some people through the border suddenly gets very complicated. Short and sweet, with a badass heroine but not a lot of action or plot development.

“Planar Ghosts” by Krystal Claxton – a kid wanders the scorched steppes of the futuristic, post-global-warming world, with a strange purple ghost of a girl as his companion. Interesting idea, but the execution could be slightly better.

“Rough Draft” by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta – a bestselling sci-fi writer who stopped writing receives a novel written by himself – from a parallel universe. The story deals with practical applications of milking the multiverse for new content by artists and writers – and how it affects the creators who are still alive in this universe.

“Between Screens” by Zach Chapman – a gang of teenagers livng on a space station teleport around the universe and hijack telescopes to watch other worlds get destroyed by natural disasters. Gloomy and disturbing, if you’re into that kind of thing.

“Unrefined” by Martin L. Shoemaker – a metal refining station in deep space gets destroyed. Told from the point of view of the station creator’s bodyguard, the story is mostly about flying around and trying to save a collapsing station, followed by a story of the employees pulling themselves up by bootstraps. If you’re an Ayn Rand-loving engineer, you might enjoy it.

“Half Past” by Samantha Murray – a magician’s daughter who creates “echoes” of herself during emotional outbursts learns something very disturbing when she decides to move out on her own. An interesting slow-paced tale of emotion, magic and different stages of growing up.

“Purposes Made for Alien Minds” by Scott R. Parkin – a malfunctioning android who can only speak and think in 5-word sentences is sent to an alien world to discover why the aliens are killing off human colonists. Strange but overall enjoyable story.

“Inconstant Moon” by Larry Niven – late at night, a freelance writer suddenly realizes that the ridiculously bright moon means something really, really bad is coming. A fun story about a guy and his girlfriend enjoying their last night on earth.

“The Graver” by Amy M. Hughes – in a world where super-powered people can suck out your soul, a widower is trying to protect his teenage daughter. Dark but creative.

“Wisteria Melancholy” by Michael T. Banker – a man who gets as heavy as lead when he feels sad moves into a clinic for other psychomorphically unstable people (mostly kids). Interesting concept, well written, contains some great quotable stuff.

“Poseidon’s Eyes” by Kary English – something about a struggling artist, her magical redneck friend who lives on the beach, some ghosts, etc… If you enjoy very slowly developing stories, this might be the one for you – I ended up skipping to the end when I was halfway through.

Score: 4 stars

Pre-order on Amazon (release date: May 4, 2015)

Peter Clines’s books are always addictive, unpredictable and beautifully crafted. His latest novel, “The Fold,” follows that pattern and may be his greatest book yet.

Meet Leland Erikson. He goes by “Mike,” which is a nickname for a nickname, and he’s one of the smartest people in the world. In addition to having sky-high IQ, he also has perfect recall. Instead of developing his talents, however, he teaches English in a small high school, choosing to lead a normal life instead of that of a dissatisfied genius. His well-established routine changes when an old friend from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) pays a visit and asks for a favor… A team of scientists developed a teleportation device that works perfectly fine, but something might be off about the scientists themselves.

The premise appears to be fairly simple. After all, teleportation is one of science fiction’s most popular tropes. (Who among us hasn’t heard “Beam me up, Scotty”?) In his usual manner, however, Clines takes that concept, turns it inside out and changes it into something completely novel and unrecognizable. Writing anything about the “how” behind his teleportation machine would bring spoilers, so suffice to say that it doesn’t quite work the way you (or any of the characters) would expect. The seemingly benign technology has a strange origin, stranger implications, and it just might destroy the world as we know it – and it’s up to Mike Erikson to save the day.

Each of the Fold’s characters is well developed and given their own personality, which, unfortunately, isn’t something one can see in every sci-fi book. From grumpy scientists to Star Trek-obsessed technicians, by the end of the book you feel like you’ve known each of them for ages. The dialogue sounds unforced and natural, with regular, everyday interactions interspersed between mysteries and action scenes. (Which are amazingly well written, by the way.)

Perhaps the main challenge was writing the protagonist in a way that would be easy to relate to and show just how brilliant he is. That’s not always an easy task: after all, we all remember the cringe-worthy, chipmunk-like character of Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: TNG. Mike (short for “Mycroft,” for obvious reasons) is written in a way that makes him easy to follow and understand. The metaphor he uses for his prodigious brain is ants: tiny memory ants carrying pieces of information back and forth. He’s not always right, and his flashed of insight are well explained as he goes about saving the day using mostly his brain, not brawn.

In order to make this an objective review, I tried to find some negatives or things that could use improvement, but I haven’t been able to think of any. The Fold is a straight-up, shoot-from-the-hip sci-fi masterpiece, with mad scientists, reclusive geniuses, bizarre technology, doomsday threats and plot twists you’ll never be able to predict.

(Full disclaimer: I received a free advance review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Score: 5 stars

Pre-order on Amazon (release date: June 2, 2015)

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Most self-help books are notoriously vague and wishy-washy, with one-size-fits-all recommendations and generic assurance that everything will be okay.

“Superproductive” by Chobi Grace is not one of those books. Unlike most other works in that genre, it gives plenty of practical advice (throw your TV remote in a drawer!), psychological insights into why you do the things you do, and nifty ways to hack your daily routine to make it more productive without using up too much of your resources.

At just 50 pages, the book contains all the useful information without the fluff that one usually finds in self-help books. The stories and parables in the book are short, sweet and to the point (the parable about angels was particularly amusing). The book’s illustrations and design make it a lot more appealing than most self-published books on Kindle, which makes it both a visual and an intellectual treat.

If you’ve ever wondered where all your free time goes, or if you’ve always dreamed of writing that Great American Novel, you should give “Superproductive” a chance – it will not disappoint you.

Score: five stars

Buy it now on Amazon

“When Mystical Creatures Attack!” by Kathleen Founds is a quirky book that defies simple descriptions.

It’s a book about a disgruntled young high school teacher in a tiny Texan town, who gets driven insane by her ungrateful students and ends up in a bizarre mental hospital. It’s a book about a girl who takes the teacher’s English class. It’s a book about a dorky boy who has a crush on the girl.

It’s a book pieced together from emails, diary entries, monologues and hilarious recipes from a Baptist cookbook.

It’s a book about life and death, destiny and suicide, love and apathy, teenage pregnancies and abortions. (Trigger warning.)

It’s a book where the ending can be easily guessed, and yet it’s unexpected and poetic and beautiful.

It’s a book that’s frequently hilarious, occasionally touching, and amazingly well written throughout.

It’s a book that deserves a 5-star rating and more.

(Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Amazon link

“Time Travel: Recent Trips” is yet another sci-fi anthology edited by the prodigious Paula Guran. While this book has some remarkable stories, it appears that the volume’s motto was “quantity over quality.” Some of the stories are downright tedious, while others have almost nothing to do with time travel and serve as a filibuster platform for their author. Because of all that, the book ended up being an average, run-of-the-mill anthology that gets only 3 out of 5 stars.

“With fate conspire” by Vandana Singh: in a dystopian, drowning world of the future, an illiterate refugee gets rescued because her brain is uniquely tuned to a machine that can look into the distant past. When she’s not being haunted by ghosts of people from the past, she sabotages the project because of her feelings. And more feelings. With some feelings on top. A sad weepy story if you’re into that sort of thing.

“Twember” by Steve Rasnic Tem: a middle-aged man living in a small town reminisces about the past while giant mysterious escarpments roam the world and alter the time-space continuum when they pass. Yet another “human interest” story that doesn’t exactly revolve around time travel.

“The man who ended history: a documentary” by Ken Liu: not so much a sci-fi story as a 46-page-long (the longest in the anthology!) NC-17 history lesson about Japan’s Unit-731 from World War II. A Chinese-American historian uses his Japanese-American wife’s invention to experience the past and relive old atrocities, which reopens old wounds and changes the way people view history. Great potential for a great story, but it ended up being rather dry.

“The carpet beds of Sutro Park” by Kage Baker: a glitchy immortal cyborg (see Kage Baker’s “The Company” series for more information) falls in love with a woman while he records her hometown for posterity. Original but depressing.

“Mating habits of the late Creaceous” by Dale Bailey: a magnificent story about a married couple that spent all its money on a time travel to see dinosaurs. A great combination of science fiction, giant lizards and the human element.

“Blue ink” by Yoon Ha Lee: a very clever story about a schoolgirl who gets recruited to help fight the battle at the end of time. Short, beautifully written and with an unexpected ending.

“Two shots from Fly’s photo gallery” by John Shirley: a historian who specializes in the Old West time-travels to the gunfight at the OK Corral to save the woman he loves. A thoroughly researched and excellent story.

“The mists of time” by Tom Purdom: an engaging story about a wealthy man who goes back in time to shoot a documentary about his great-grandfather liberating a pirate ship full of slaves.

“The king of Where-I-go” by Howard Waldrop: a strange story set in the 1970s – a Texan guy’s younger sister gets recruited into a paranormal research project. Curious premise, but the story itself meanders – more about life in the 60s and 70s than anything else.

“Bespoke” by Genevieve Valentine: a cute short story about a post-time-travel world, where a young seamstress helps create authentic period clothing for wealthy tourists going back in time.

“First Flight” by Mary Robinette Kowal: a little old lady goes back in time to 1905 to record one of the Wright brothers’ flights. A feel-good story where, for once, interfering with the timeline doesn’t cause a disaster.

“The time travel club” by Charlie Jane Anders: a quirky story about a group of friends who meet each week in the basement of a Unitarian church and share their made-up stories about time travel, until a real time traveler shows up… Fun and creative.

“The ghosts of Christmas” by Paul Cornell: science fiction meets Lifetime channel in this story about a woman who uses an experimental time travel device to haunt her own past and future, her mather and her daughter. A lot of monologues about feelings, not a lot of science…

“The Ile of Dogges” by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette: a very Kage Baker-like story about a time traveler rescuing a play that would have been destroyed otherwise.

“September at Wall and Broad” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: an excellent story that combines the inefficiency of federal bureaucracies (the Time Department), the highly believable description of what it would be like to be a timestream operative, and the little-known Wall Street explosion of 1920. Highly recommended.

“Thought experiment” by Eileen Gunn: an engineer invents an unusual way to time-travel, but fails to consider the consequences. A goofy and entertaining story.

“Number 73 Glad Avenue” by Suzanne J. Willis: A woman and her magical tiny android sidekick steal time from people attending their parties. An unusual concept, though the story itself is a bit confusing.

“The Lost Canal” by Michael Moorcock: an unsuccessful and far too lengthy homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “John Carter of Mars” novels. Apparently, a million years from now people will still speak English and remember what happened in the 20th century and what happened in the 23rd.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Amazon link

It’s been a while since I published a new book on Kindle, so I figured I’d celebrate by doing a good ol’ giveaway! Today and tomorrow only, you can download a brand new, absolutely free (as in cheese!) copy of my latest book, 50 shades of yay: great thinkers on happiness.

As the snarky title explains, it’s about the nature of happiness. What is it, what is it not, why don’t I have it, and where can I score some – those are just a few questions that are covered in 50 different essays, poems, aphorisms and philosophical reflections on the topic. You’ve probably heard of some of the featured writers (Emily Dickinson, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates), but some of the others will definitely be a pleasant discovery. Consider Christina, the 16th-century queen of Sweden, whose insightful notes and memoirs are virtually forgotten these days.

This book has a little bit for everyone: serious discussions on the nature of happiness and short, snappy soundbites; serious philosophical texts and thought-provoking poems; viewpoints from both optimists and pessimists. 50 shades of yay has something for everyone, and certainly something for you to help you on your personal quest toward that most elusive goal, happiness. Happy reading and best of luck!

Download link

The third and final book in the Immortal trilogy is fun to read and hard to put down. Adam, the immortal with a snarky attitude and a penchant for alcoholism, gets in trouble once again, but this time the enemy isn’t someone he can track down and stop. Between the CIA, the goblin assassins and very nearly omniscient international conglomerates, there’s not a lot he can do to get out of his predicament.

“Immortal at the edge of the world” ties up some loose ends from the first book (while featuring a couple of characters introduced in the second book) and, most importantly, reveals the identity of Eve, the immortal red-haired woman from Adam’s past. Just about everything that takes place in this book was directly caused by the events at the end of the first book in the series, which only goes to show you – just because you slaughter an entire compound full of bad guys, doesn’t mean you’ll get away scot-free.

The book follows the same formula as the two before it: flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter (fortunately not typed in ALL CAPS, like they were in the second book), snarky observations about today’s world, wacky adventures involving mythological creatures, and action. Lots and lots of action. The immortal man is particularly vulnerable in this book…

That said, the book is not without flaws. The big revelation about Eve at the very end isn’t something you’d ever be able to guess, and the way it’s played out is rather unexpected and anticlimactic. (Much like the ending of Patrick Lee’s “Breach” trilogy.) Also, despite all of his experience and knowledge, our hero is still a bit of a dummy: when given an important, allegedly magical artifact, he goofs around with it for months before finally giving it his undivided attention at the very last possible moment. While the book is overall enjoyable, those two things are why I’m giving it four stars instead of five.

Score: four stars

(Disclaimer: I received my copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

Order it on Amazon
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