Book Review: The Gathering Edge by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

The Gathering Edge (Liaden Universe Book 20)The Gath­er­ing Edge by Sharon Lee
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

A must sat­is­fy­ing entry in the Liaden Uni­verse series, num­ber 20 begins and ends with plen­ty of action. Indeed, the read­er hard­ly has time to take a breath for all the action! The char­ac­ters them­selves must be exhaust­ed — I feel so in their behalf. 

I enjoyed this part of Theo’s sto­ry rather more than pre­vi­ous books about her, per­haps because oth­ers played a larg­er part in the sto­ry. She isn’t my favorite of the series’ pro­tag­o­nists, to be hon­est, but then I still hope for more of Priscil­la Delacroix y Men­doza.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Less Than A Treason by Dana Stabenow

Less Than a Treason (Kate Shugak, # 21)Less Than a Trea­son by Dana Stabenow
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

FINALLY! The cliffhang­er at the end of Bad Blood is resolved, or of course there would not be a #21. It’s been so long (over four years!) since I read #20, though, that I had to go back and re-read the last bit of it to under­stand the begin­ning of this nov­el. That wasn’t hap­py-mak­ing, and it had a neg­a­tive effect on my abil­i­ty to just dive in and enjoy the book.

Once things got going, though, every­thing was good — it’s still a five-star read. Kate is in fine form, although as usu­al she is def­i­nite­ly affect­ed by recent events. We see a lot of Jim Chopin here — in fact, he fig­ures as large­ly as Kate does. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Stabenow has always done a good job of show­ing us a Ninilt­na that grows and changes with the times, with peo­ple com­ing and going, being born and dying, which is real­is­tic. That hurts at times when you’re attached to the char­ac­ters. I don’t want to get into spoil­ers, but you’ll see when you read it. And you should def­i­nite­ly read it!

View all my reviews

Book Review: Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive (Audiobook)Pos­i­tiv­i­ty: Ground­break­ing Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hid­den Strength of Pos­i­tive Emo­tions, Over­come Neg­a­tiv­i­ty, and Thrive by Bar­bara L. Fredrick­son
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I first read Fredrickson’s sec­ond book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emo­tion Affects Every­thing We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. It blew me away, and I’ve rec­om­mend­ed it hith­er and yon. I was def­i­nite­ly inter­est­ed in her first book, but for one rea­son and anoth­er it took me a while to get around to it.

This is an excel­lent audio­book. I enjoyed the pre­sen­ta­tion, and the infor­ma­tion was absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. I’m going to have to go back and read (instead of lis­ten to) some of the sec­tions and take notes, but I’m def­i­nite­ly inter­est­ed enough to do so!

I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the sci­ence-backed tech­niques Fredrick­son rec­om­mends for improv­ing one’s pos­i­tiv­i­ty ratio. I’ll be track­ing mine as I try these tech­niques to see what hap­pens. I strong­ly rec­om­mend the book, espe­cial­ly to any­one who is inter­est­ed in com­bat­ing neg­a­tiv­i­ty or the sci­ence of pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butch­er
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I just re-read Storm Front, after first read­ing it — well, I don’t even know how many years ago! Short­ly after it was first released, I think. 

Now, it’s impor­tant to know that I sim­ply don’t re-read books. I find that too bor­ing, most of the time. There are a scant few excep­tions. The Liaden Uni­verse books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are the most remark­able of them. The fact that I would even con­sid­er a re-read speaks very, very high­ly of Butcher’s work.

I’d for­got­ten far more than I expect­ed, but I sup­pose that hap­pens, with at least 15 years and good­ness knows how many books in between read­ings. I knew it was a good book, I knew one impor­tant part of the end­ing (I mean, come on — there are many more books in the series, so you KNOW that Dres­den lives!), but all else was lost. I wasn’t sure I would like read­ing about old Har­ry with recent Har­ry fresh in my mind (I just read the short sto­ry “Jury Duty”).

If any­thing, I enjoyed it even more spiced by the knowl­edge of who Dres­den (and Mur­phy) will become in the future books. I enjoyed the set­ting, the craft that went into build­ing the whole nov­el, and see­ing how Butcher’s skill grew from the first book to the more recent works. 

I’m going to go on with re-read­ing the entire series — I hadn’t com­mit­ted to it before, but now I’m look­ing for­ward to it!

View all my reviews

Book Review: Full Metal Magic

Full Metal Magic: An Urban Fantasy Anthology of Magic, Mayhem, and the ParanormalFull Met­al Mag­ic: An Urban Fan­ta­sy Anthol­o­gy of Mag­ic, May­hem, and the Para­nor­mal by J.A. Cipri­ano
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I was clued in to this anthol­o­gy by a men­tion in J.A. Cipri­ano’s newslet­ter, which is worth sub­scrib­ing to (hey, the man sends you free reads, and they’re good!). Any­way, Cipri­ano and com­pa­ny are all dark urban fan­ta­sy authors who have writ­ten these sto­ries specif­i­cal­ly for this vol­ume, so you won’t find them any­where else. The book is avail­able via the Kin­dle Unlim­it­ed pro­gram. In fact, every relat­ed book that I checked on is avail­able that way, so I’m won­der­ing if this thing was spon­sored by Ama­zon or some­thing. If so, why doesn’t it say so? Any­way, on to the review.

“The Bull Demon King” is Cipriano’s sto­ry, set in the Thrice-Cursed Mage uni­verse. You don’t need to have read those books to appre­ci­ate the sto­ry, and it serves as a nice lit­tle intro­duc­tion if you’re curi­ous about the series (I’ve real­ly enjoyed them). I think the sto­ry is set between the sec­ond and third books, but I won’t swear to that and it isn’t vital. We get to attend the Texas state fair with assas­sin mage Mac Bren­nan and his girl­friend Ricky, the local alpha were­wolf. Of course, may­hem ensues, because that’s Mac’s lot in life — and what kind of sto­ry would we have oth­er­wise?

Domi­no Finn con­tributes “The Black Door” which is not­ed as “A Black Mag­ic Out­law Sto­ry.” This sto­ry had me guess­ing right up until the end, which was delight­ful. The writ­ing is won­der­ful, the world of an alter­nate mag­i­cal Mia­mi nightlife is very ful­ly real­ized, and cen­tral char­ac­ter, Cis­co Suarez, is extreme­ly well drawn. I will be point­ing my part­ner to Finn’s work, for sure (he loves the macabre), but I think it may be a lit­tle too dark for me.

On to Man­hat­tan for our next piece, “Dance of the Dead,” which Sonya Bate­man tells us is a “Death­s­peak­er Codex Short Sto­ry.” It takes place just after the events of the first nov­el in that series, accord­ing to the author’ note. Gideon Black dri­ves bod­ies from crime scenes and the like to the morgue. Appar­ent­ly he’s not 100% human, and he’s just learned that he can speak to the dead. That’s very impor­tant to the plot. For some rea­son this sto­ry didn’t grab me. I don’t relate well to sto­ries that deal with the dead, like zom­bies and so on, so it’s prob­a­bly a fail­ure of imag­i­na­tion on my fault rather than any­thing wrong with Bateman’s sto­ry. If I find some­thing she writes in anoth­er set­ting, I will give her anoth­er go.

Ambrose Ibsen offers up “Hard Row: A Demon-Heart­ed Sto­ry” for the col­lec­tion. Lucian Colt works with oth­er spe­cial enforcers to keep the threats from Beyond from encroach­ing on the mun­dane world of Detroit, and when he learns that there’s a ship­ment of kid­napped chil­dren being moved, he’s def­i­nite­ly down for track­ing down the bad guys behind the trade. The fall­en angel whose heart he car­ries is just glad to get a chance to throw down. The gim­mick doesn’t real­ly car­ry the sto­ry here. It feels like Colt is too over­pow­ered in com­par­i­son to his allies, as if they are a mis­matched RPG par­ty.

Okay, I’ll admit it: Al K. Line’s name just annoyed me. So I had to get past that to give “Angry Spark,” set in his Dark Mag­ic Enforcer world, a fair read­ing. Then the use name of the main char­ac­ter, “Black Spark,” hit me wrong. The guy’s real name is Faz Pound, but obvi­ous­ly mag­ic men don’t go about giv­ing their real names to all and sundry, hence the use name. Then I didn’t like the remarks about a cor­pu­lent char­ac­ter. So I final­ly just decid­ed to leave off on this sto­ry. Maybe some­one else can give you a review of it.

Rob Cor­nell’s “Fam­i­ly Busi­ness,” which is appar­ent­ly a pre­quel set in his Unturned series’ uni­verse, is set in anoth­er alter­nate Detroit. For­tu­nate­ly noth­ing annoyed me about this one, so I was able to read it. It’s a wee bit hack­neyed, but a bit sweet, too. It’s sort of like when you hear a song and you know how the melody is going to go because the chords and the melody pro­gres­sion already feel famil­iar. I might check out more of Cornell’s work, but it won’t be at the top of my to-read list.

On the oth­er hand, “Valen­tine Blues” left me tru­ly hun­gry for more of James A. Hunter’s work, and want­i­ng to read more about Yan­cy Lazarus right now. This minute. Not soon, NOW. Lazarus is a trav­el­ing blues man with some inter­est­ing tal­ents who takes an inter­est in the very strange behav­ior of the young peo­ple in Valen­tine, Nebras­ka. You can find the most inter­est­ing things on the road! I will most def­i­nite­ly be read­ing Strange Mag­ic: A Yan­cy Lazarus Nov­el, the first book in this series, SOON.

I know that I’ve read some­thing about Craig Schae­fer’s Daniel Faust series some­where before, but I’ve nev­er actu­al­ly read any OF the series until “A Dri­ve in the Coun­try.” It’s set in and around Las Vegas. I have no idea where in the time­line of the series this par­tic­u­lar sto­ry is set, but it’s well-writ­ten. It pulls you into the grit­ty, noir world of gang­sters plus mag­ic and makes you feel the dark. If that’s your thing, Schaefer’s your man.

New York is the set­ting for Pip­pa DaCos­ta’s “Chase the Dark,” set in the world of her Soul Eater series. I am high­ly intrigued, as I don’t believe I’ve ever run into an urban fan­ta­sy series that draws upon Egypt­ian mythol­o­gy the way DaCos­ta is here. The name of the main char­ac­ter, though, Ace Dante? Even though it’s obvi­ous­ly an assumed name, it’s ter­ri­ble. I hate it. I’m jarred every sin­gle time my eyes come across it on the page. It kept pulling me out of what was oth­er­wise a real­ly good sto­ry, and is mak­ing me won­der whether or not I can han­dle read­ing Hid­den Blade, the first book in the series.

Now that I’m fin­ished with the book, I can’t help but notice a few things. There wasn’t a sin­gle main char­ac­ter that was female, and while it’s pos­si­ble that Cis­co Suarez is a per­son of col­or, his cul­tur­al back­ground wasn’t made clear in Finn’s sto­ry. If any of the oth­er pro­tag­o­nists were POC, that wasn’t obvi­ous (I’m not sure what to con­sid­er “Ace Dante.”) I’m pret­ty sure all these men were cis­gen­dered and het­ero­sex­u­al, as well. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that there’s a lit­tle more diver­si­ty in such a vol­ume.

All in all, a decent col­lec­tion of sto­ries and a nice intro­duc­tion to some new authors, but a dis­ap­point­ment in some impor­tant respects.

View all my reviews

The Benefits of Maturity

Sunset over the mountains

I’m an Old­er Woman. My 50th birth­day is fast approach­ing. No mat­ter what I do with my résumé, it is pret­ty obvi­ous that I’m not a mil­len­ni­al. That is who is tru­ly desired, it seems, by the tech star­tups that I pre­fer to work with.

Oh, the job post­ings don’t come out and say that they don’t want old peo­ple, but the key­words are there?. “Fast-paced,” “high ener­gy,” and “dynam­ic!”? They all whis­per, at least, that “we only want young peo­ple!”

This isn’t just my impres­sion, but the con­sen­sus among var­i­ous peo­ple I’ve spo­ken with. It prob­a­bly isn’t inten­tion­al, but the bias is there and the ageism is felt. So I want to address some things that seem to be missed by the “we want young peo­ple!” folks.

First, there are plen­ty of mature work­ers who can keep up with that “fast pace” you describe. We know our­selves, our bod­ies and our oth­er com­mit­ments. We have the expe­ri­ence it takes to judge whether or not we can com­mit to start­up life. I’ll be hon­est: I don’t think many young peo­ple can match that lev­el of self-knowl­edge. I know that when I first worked for a start­up, back in 1995, I didn’t have any idea how much ded­i­ca­tion it would require.

Sec­ond, old­er work­ers bring a life­time of expe­ri­ence in many dif­fer­ent areas, and that expe­ri­ence is brought to bear in our work­ing lives in ways that younger work­ers sim­ply can­not match. For instance, I don’t have the admin­is­tra­tive work I did decades ago on my résumé, as it isn’t direct­ly rel­e­vant now. How­ev­er, that expe­ri­ence shaped me and gives me the abil­i­ty to bet­ter relate to non-tech­ni­cal peo­ple as a sup­port professional.Younger peo­ple don’t have that kind of added val­ue.

The aver­age old­er work­er has been out of school and their par­ents’ homes for a long time, mean­ing that they have expe­ri­ence man­ag­ing their own finances and house­holds inde­pen­dent­ly (or with life part­ners). That gives us a cer­tain respect for the val­ue of mon­ey and time that noth­ing else does. How much of that expe­ri­ence does some­one right out of school have?

Most old­er work­ers are also post-par­ent­ing. Their kids are grown and rea­son­ably inde­pen­dent (whether out of the house or not), so they aren’t going to be jug­gling preg­nan­cies, soc­cer prac­tices, and music lessons that will impact their work lives. Grand­chil­dren? Yes, some of us have them. Being a grand­par­ent is, how­ev­er, a far less time-con­sum­ing com­mit­ment for most peo­ple than being a par­ent.

Final­ly, there’s noth­ing else that beats matu­ri­ty for giv­ing you a calm tem­pera­ment. Some peo­ple are born with them, but on aver­age, it’s eas­i­er for some­one with 30 years of pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence to put one bad day into per­spec­tive than it is for some­one with a few months or years of work­ing under their belts. (I know there are excep­tions to this, as to every rule, but Don­ald Trump prob­a­bly isn’t apply­ing to work at your start­up.)

The next time you get a résumé or appli­ca­tion from a Baby Boomer or Gen X’er, then, please take these fac­tors into account. Con­sid­er their tech­ni­cal skills, cer­tain­ly? (and don’t assume that they’ll be out­dat­ed) ?but weigh their matu­ri­ty on the pos­i­tive side of the scale, for a change.

(Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished at Medi­um)

Welcome to Esther!

I'm a Mémé! Otherwise known as a grandmother 🙂 My baby girl had a baby girl on Sunday, September 11. Little Esther is absolutely beautiful, of course - she looks a lot like her mother did as an infant.

Both Momma and baby are healthy. I'm fortunate enough to be in Omaha with them for now, and I'm enjoying every minute of my time here. There's nothing else like the smell of a sweet, clean infant. It's definitely worth all the sleep loss.

We're getting lots of good singing and reading time together. I was very happy to be able to find Pamela Ballingham's Earth Mother Lullabies from Around the World series (volumes I, II, and III) on CD, as I nearly wore out the cassette versions playing them to Katie while carrying her and after she was born. They're a family tradition now!

One of the first books I bought for her? A is for Activist! She's also fond of Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey. We're going to have to find a new copy of Jennifer's Rabbit, as Katie's copy has disappeared, and we're very fond of the illustrated version of Tom Paxton's marvelous song.

Book Review: Magic to the Bone

Magic to the Bone (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, #7)Mag­ic to the Bone by Annie Bel­let
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

The Boss Fight!

The cli­max to the Samir sto­ry­line that has been build­ing through­out all sev­en vol­umes of the series, this plot does not dis­ap­point. My only com­plaint about the book, as with the oth­er six, is that it’s short. Still, it’s as long as it needs to be to tell the sto­ry, with noth­ing extra­ne­ous, so I guess it is the right length.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday LivesBet­ter Than Before: Mas­ter­ing the Habits of Our Every­day Lives by Gretchen Rubin
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite as good as her first book, but well worth the read. I prob­a­bly should have got­ten the abridged ver­sion, because as usu­al I got tired of the anec­dotes.

I find her types inter­est­ing — there are uphold­ers, oblig­ers, ques­tion­ers, and rebels. Appar­ent­ly most peo­ple are ques­tion­ers or oblig­ers (I think — I may be wrong about the oblig­ers). (I’m a ques­tion­er, so for once in my life I’m not weird.) Then she clas­si­fies peo­ple in addi­tion­al ways, like abstain­ers or mod­er­a­tors and so on. In fact, there seems to be some sort of clas­si­fi­ca­tion or label in near­ly every chap­ter!

Any­way, the infor­ma­tion in the book is use­ful, and I am already using it in ana­lyz­ing my own habits and improv­ing them. Rubin’s read­ing voice is fair­ly pleas­ant (I lis­tened to the Audi­ble ver­sion), so I don’t hes­i­tate to rec­om­mend the book.

View all my reviews

Review: LG Tone Infinim Headset

I purchased the LG TONE INFINIM Bluetooth Stereo Headset on Amazon to use with my iPhone 6+. I was so excited! From the reviews and description, it sounded like exactly what I wanted for listening to music while working out and still being able to take calls.

LG TONE INFINIM Bluetooth Stereo Headset

When I got it, I immediately paired it up and could hear my music with beautiful clarity. Great balance, nice highs and lows. I hate most earbuds, but these fit in my ears very well. There was just one problem - I couldn't hear anyone on phone calls, and callers couldn't hear me. Hmm.

Thinking it was a problem with the headset, I exchanged it. Amazon is great about that kind of thing, you know? I got the new one, paired it, tested it - and had the same problem.

So I tested this one with the boyfriend's (Android) phone - it worked just fine. I erased my phone completely and set it up as new, and still had the same problem. I sought advice from co-workers (I mean, come on, I do work for Apple) and checked out all the suggestions. No joy. I Googled and could find nothing about problems between this headset and iPhones. In fact, there were reports of it working nicely with the 5 and 5s models.

I went to the Apple store and they swapped out my phone. Same problem. Then we got the bright idea to try the headset with the tech's iPhone 6, and found that we couldn't hear calls on it, either.

Finally I did what I should have done originally, and called LG. After finally getting the idea across to a man who didn't have a firm grasp of the English language, and didn't even ask what model iPhone I was using, or what version of iOS it was running. He just put me on hold and went away for a bit, then come back and said, "The HBS-900 is not compatible with iPhone."

I said, "With any iPhone, or just my iPhone?"

"We have not tested with latest," he said. "You have latest, yes?"

"Yes, the iPhone 6+ running iOS 8.4," I replied.

"We have not tested," he said again.

Now that seems a major oversight on LG's part, and while the product description mentions an Android app for easy pairing, it also says there's a manual pairing mode (which I used) for other devices. That's nothing like saying, "This won't work with iPhones" and it is misleading marketing. I am very unhappy that LG has overlooked such a huge market segment with this poor decision, and that I have wasted so much time on this thing as a result. I've had decent experiences with LG products in the past, but I'll think twice before buying anything from them in the future.