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Author: Cyn

Cynthia Armistead lives with her life partner Rick and their critters, Harpo the dog and Django and Tully (cats). They also foster a varying number of kittens from Lifeline Animal Project. Cyn is a Senior Technical Advisor for Apple. She is an avid reader, particularly of non-fiction and science fiction, fantasy, and mystery fiction. Music is another passion, particularly singing and hearing live acoustic performances. She indulges in knitting and tabletop roleplaying games.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital AgeHow to Win Friends and Influ­ence Peo­ple in the Dig­i­tal Age by Dale Carnegie
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I was a teenager when my father rec­om­mend­ed Mr. Carnegie’s orig­i­nal book to me, and at 48 I final­ly got around to read­ing this ver­sion. I’m glad that I did, as it was well worth the time. I would rec­om­mend this book to absolute­ly any­one who deals with oth­er humans in any capac­i­ty at all. And yes, I’ll be sug­gest­ing it to my own daugh­ter right away.

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Review: Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood

Attack the Geek (Ree Reyes, #2.5)Attack the Geek by Michael R. Under­wood
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Excuse me, but SQUEE! More Ree Reyes! More Drake! More East­wood and Grog­nard! Yes, more Geeko­man­cy!

Michael Under­wood is back with a delight­ful novel­la and if I have ANY com­plaints, it’s that this is a novel­la instead of a nov­el. That’s just because I am a greedy fan­girl read­er. The sto­ry itself is ful­ly devel­oped, and the novel­la is exact­ly the right for­mat for it. 

Attack the Geek def­i­nite­ly isn’t the place to start in the series, as it relies on pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of the char­ac­ters and the uni­verse, but if you’ve read the pre­vi­ous nov­els, you will NOT want to miss this install­ment when it is released on April 9.

Now I’m left hun­gry for Ree Reyes #3, though!

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Review: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and SexBonk: The Curi­ous Cou­pling of Sci­ence and Sex by Mary Roach
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Fas­ci­nat­ing stuff! Vast amounts of sheer geek­ery about sex, sci­ence, and the inter­sec­tion there­of. If you’re look­ing for sex tips or sala­cious read­ing, look else­where. If you’re look­ing to howl with laugh­ter with­out being able to explain WHY to most peo­ple, this is your book.

Okay, one might glean the occa­sion­al sex tip, but I don’t think they’re any­thing that com­mon sense couldn’t tell you. And you’ll have to wait for the very last chap­ter for the best bit.

I’ll be adding more of Roach’s diverse works to my to-be-read stack soon!

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Review: Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino

Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open RelationshipsOpen­ing Up: A Guide to Cre­at­ing and Sus­tain­ing Open Rela­tion­ships by Tris­tan Taormi­no
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I have to be hon­est. When I ini­tial­ly heard about Open­ing Up by Tris­tan Taormi­no, it was in asso­ci­a­tion with some­one I can’t stand, and I child­ish­ly let that asso­ci­a­tion col­or my impres­sion of the book. I didn’t real­ly con­sid­er read­ing it. I final­ly got around to read­ing (okay, lis­ten­ing to) it this past week, and I’m sor­ry I didn’t do so soon­er. It’s so good that I’m con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing a print copy to have on hand in my lend­ing library, and may­be even an ebook copy so that I might eas­i­ly ref­er­ence pas­sages from time to time. 

None of the infor­ma­tion is new to me, exact­ly, but it is put togeth­er very well. The sec­tions on issues to consider/​issues that might arise in each style of respon­si­ble non-monogamy were espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed. I was dis­ap­point­ed that there isn’t a sec­tion in her web site for read­ers, but per­haps the print copy has repro­ducible check­lists.

The chap­ter on STIs was very good, although I think that a list of speci­fic STIs for which non-monog­a­mous peo­ple should request test­ing would have been help­ful.

In any case, I do rec­om­mend this book. It’s replac­ing Love With­out Lim­its as my go-to rec­om­men­da­tion for new poly­folk to read.

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