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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.