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Isn't it wonderful that the first night of Hannukah conincides with Christmas Eve this year? Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, hope it's happy!
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Happy Birthday, AndeinCascade! Hope you had a great day
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 For reasons that do not need explaining at this juncture ...

I don't post here a lot anymore. When the reasons go away I will resume. But I do still post on Livejournal.
vamysteryfan: (muse of fire)
 Happy Birthday, [Bad username or unknown identity: elmyraemilie  ! Hope you're having a wonderful day!]
vamysteryfan: (books)
Tough choices, keeping it down to just 10. But these are worth the reading.

 The Peripheral by William Gibson
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Very Best of Charles deLint by Charles deLint
Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottolini
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman
Forensics by Val McDermid
Future Crimes by Marc Goodman
The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner
Sapiens by Yuval Harari
vamysteryfan: (books)
To-Read Shelf
Coming of Age at the End of Days by Alicia LaPlante
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman (About Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
Currently Reading
Zoo by James Patterson (there's a CBS miniseries on now)
The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman (nonfiction; it seemed to fit well with Zoo)
Finished This Week
It's been a beach-read kind of week. Nothing heavy.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly. A solid police procedural, with roots in the 1992 LA riots and a modern-day resolution
Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb. We know who the bad guys are almost from the beginning. The book is about investigating and pinning down the evidence in a futuristic setting.
Lingo: Around Europe in 60 Languages by Gaston Dorren. If you are interested in words' births, evolutions, and in some cases, deaths, this book is for you. 
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 Last night I went to a fun lecture at the Newseum. Three local film critics - Arch Campbell, Ann Hornaday and Bill Newcott - picked 10 movies that they thought shaped the boomer experience. They each picked three and then all agreed on one.

Ann Hornaday - All the President's Men, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars
Arch Campbell - American Graffiti, The Godfather, Psycho
Bill Newcott - Goldfinger, Wizard of Oz (remember the Pink Floyd version?), Sound of Music

And the quintessential boomer movie? The Graduate. They loved the soundtrack and the nuanced performances.

It was interesting how important they all thought soundtracks were. Ann Hornaday was scathing about George Lucas. She said his biggest contribution was to improving sound and his movies made enough money that theatres stayed in business. Otherwise, Star Wars infantilized the movie industry and it is still trying to recover. But Star Wars did have an enormous influence on the culture. 

The three all had informative comments on why they chose their picks. In the Q and A afterwards, the second-guessing began. Why Apocalypse Now and not Deerhunter? Where's West Side Story. Where's 2001: A Space Odyssey?

So what would your picks be?
vamysteryfan: (books)
 If I know a book is part of a series, I usually try to start reading close to the beginning of the series. I broke that rule for these, with varying results.
The Mask by Taylor Stevens. I received an ARC for this book before finding out it was third or fourth in a series. The beginning made it seem like the worst Mary Sue ever. Magical talent to acquire languages, amazing fighting skills, tragic back story, plus a healthy dose of Had She But Known. Once I got past the first 50 pages, it was actually very readable. Without being spoilery, the perpetrator was hiding in plain sight. The culture clash is an important part of the book. I might go back and read the first one, which won several awards
Terminal by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs. It's the eighth in a series. If I'd known it was a YA, I might not have picked it up, but Kathy Reichs is a powerful draw. I can't recommend it, even to its target audience. Teenagers in Charleston with superhuman powers from a biochemical agent battle other superhumans and a shadowy government agency. I couldn't buy that even teenagers would make the same mistakes several times in a row. I didn't find the characters sympathetic.
Death Ex Machina by Gary Corby. This one, I will definitely look for the earlier books. It's set in ancient Greece, around the time of Pericles. Aeschylus and Euripides are minor characters. The story revolves around a death in a theatre during revels dedicated to Dionysus. The main character is Socrates' older brother. The mystery is interesting. The historical research is well done, without being an info-dump. I liked the writing style as well.
Masque of a Murderer by Sasanna Calkins. This is the third book in the series and I haven't read the other two. The setting is interesting - London, just after the Great Fire. The historical research is nicely done and the writing style is smooth. I'm not sure a girl would have had that much freedom, but I could suspend disbelief. I might look for the other two.

The Private Patient by P.D. James. I’ve read all of her books. This might be the last Dalgliesh book, as P.D. James passed away last November. It is classic James, with her examination of class issues, attention to detail, and convoluted plot. A woman goes to a private clinic for facial reconstruction and doesn’t survive the night. It’s not the best-written of the series, but I’ll take it. There is an elegiac air to the book. She takes care to wrap up certain details of her characters’ lives (in satisfying ways).
vamysteryfan: (books)
I'm backed up on my reading list and I haven't posted here in a while. I need to catch up.

by Steven Kotler. A collection of essays on current science practices that read like science fiction. Terraforming? Think about the Army Corps of Engineers. Flying cars? Gyrocopters. Geordi Laforge's visor? There's a visual prosthetic in use. It was a lot of fun to read for science nerds and science fiction fans.
You're Not Lost If You Can Still See the Truck by Bill Heavey. This is a collection of essays by a Field & Stream writer. I'm not at all into hunting or fishing but he makes it sound interesting. He has a lot of adventures and misadventures. There are a couple of essays about his family, including a very moving one about losing a daughter to SIDS.
A is for Arsenic: the poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup. During the two world wars, Agathie Christie was a pharmacist. Her knowledge is reflected in her use of poison in her novels. From arsenic to veronal, the author follows a pattern for each poison. She picks a book that features a poison, talks about a real-life case that Christie might have heard about, gives the history and current science, and then talks some more about the book. My eyes did slide a little past the technical bits, but it was very interesting. For Christie fans, it's a must.
vamysteryfan: (books)
to see the WW2 flyover in DC. It should be spectacular!

Mysteries, we read them:

Naked Greed by Stuart Woods.  I read an ARC for this book. A perfect beach book, with popcorn or potato chips alongside. The book is filled with double-crosses and fine meals. I always like reading his books. Occasionally he gets off gems like this: "[t]he party had upshifted from cordiality to conviviality, though nobody was wearing a lampshade yet."

Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman.  I was fortunate to receive an early copy of this book. Tony Hillerman's daughter Anne continues the stories of Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito, as well as other familiar characters. She's an extremely good writer. She captures the original voices very well and adds her own touches. She works in Stagecoach references, details of life on the reservation, and even zombies. Now I have to go back and read Spider Woman's Daughter. I missed it when it came out.

Robert Parker's Kickback by Ace Atkins. I received an ARC of this book. I enjoyed Cheap Shot so was looking forward to it. I'm sorry to say it was a disappointment. I hope that since it's an ARC, the prose will be tightened up before the final version comes out. Without spoiling it, I've encountered the basic plot before (Leverage 3.01 and elsewhere). There are interpolated scenes involving different (nameless) characters in a different location that are just annoying. He wasn't as good at capturing the essence of Spenser and Hawk this time.

And in nonfiction

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid. My "run right out and get it" book of the month. Do you watch CSI or Criminal Minds? Do you read true crime or mysteries? Do you enjoy reading about the development of technology? This book spans all those topics and more and does it brilliantly. Val McDermid covers every branch of forensics including history, procedures, and she includes examples, mostly from Great Britain. Her writing style is accessible and engaging. This book would also be a great gift for any mystery writer.
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 To all my DC and VA peeps:

This Friday at noon, there's going to be a massive flyover over the Mall of World War 2 airplanes in DC. It marks V-E Day. It should start about 12:10 and end a half-hour later. 

Even if you aren't an airplane buff, this should be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the planes our parents/grandparents talked about. It should be visible from a wide area, as they line themselves up. Try to see it!
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 Spread the Word by William Safire. This is the 500th book I’ve added since I started using Goodreads to track them in October 2012. It’s a collection of his columns “On Language” in the New York Times from the late 90s. While some of the examples are dated, it’s still a fascinating read. He had a gift for playing with language. I love when there are words about words. Take Paradiorthosis, a correction that is itself incorrect. Next time a guy tries to mansplain to me, I’ll throw that at him. Or Kakistocracy, government by the worst people. I think that should be illustrated with a picture of the current Congress. Or Linguaclips, the technique of abbreviation, clipping long words into short ones, and clipping those into initials and acronyms. I could go on. A great book for people who enjoy reading.

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman. This is a well-written, well-researched book that will open your eyes. After the first few chapters, I disabled Location on my apps and Facebook and started turning off my cellphone when it wasn’t in use. The amount of data we willingly share on line is staggering, but you might not know what happens to it next. When you sign up for an online dating service, for example, that data is sold, often in realtime. We are commodities, bought and sold to advertisers. Then there’s what hackers and organized crime does with the information. Hackers can access your computer cam and sell photos of you online. With the Internet of Things (communicating devices) gaining speed more and more of our world is subject to intrusion. His final chapters detail some solutions that governments can take, that corporations and coders can take, and that we as individuals can take. Mr. Goodman did an amazing job making this technical subject accessible to regular readers.

Clam Wake by Mary Daheim. I’m generally a fan of Mary Daheim’s cozies. I’ve read all the Alpine mysteries and most of the Bed & Breakfast series. This was a weaker entry. Renie and Auntie Vance in particular were grating. The way she harped on all the drinking was weird. The mystery was fun, though slight, and the location descriptions were excellent.

vamysteryfan: (books)
I pick up cookbooks for many reasons. Some I keep as references, some I use the recipes. Sometimes I get them just to give away. These recent acquisitions illustrate my different categories.
It Ain't Sauce, It's Gravy: Macaroni, Homestyle Cheesesteaks, the Best Meatballs in the World, and How Food Saved My Life by Steve Martorano. One of the cookbooks I got for the stories. I loved the author's stories about growing up in South Philly with a ::cough:: colorful group of relatives and friends. They look like wonderful Italian food recipes. I'm looking forward to trying them. 
The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table by Jeff Morgan. This is an excellent cookbook for any cook. I'm not Jewish, but I liked it. The first 40-some pages are a brisk discussion of the requirements of kosher cooking and a kosher kitchen, a listing of the various types of wine and how to pair them with food, and some history. I found that part interesting. Then on to the recipes. They are all quite doable. Many of them would fit well if you follow a Mediterranean diet. I loved the details of wine pairings for each dish.
Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends by Bryan Voltaggio. I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy of this book. This cookbook falls into my subcategory of food porn. There are gorgeous photos accompanying each recipe that will make your mouth water. It is more for the advanced home chef, rather than a novice. Fortunately, I live close enough to Frederick that I can eat his food at his restaurant. This will be a cookbook I will leaf through for inspiration.
Quick Check Guide to Organic Foods: Discover the Benefits of Going Organic for Your Health, the Community, and the Environment by Barbara Wexler. The first 50 pages cover the basics: why choose organic, what organic means, resources, and separating out the hype. The real value of this book lies in its detailed comparisons of foods readily available in most supermarkets. It has calorie counts and extensive nutrition information. If you focus on organic eating, this is a reference book you will want to have.
vamysteryfan: (books)
 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s fairly audacious for an author to even try to unify 70,000 years of human history. Yuval Harari does it in this beautifully written, challenging, fascinating book. He puts his arguments together and then takes just that one step farther that makes you reevaluate conventional wisdom. He starts with the premise that human civilization is based on the ability to believe in imaginary things and to agree on them as a group. The groups got larger through history and we unified our imaginary agreements into larger and larger systems, such as money and religion. He and his translators did a wonderful job keeping the reader interested through some difficult chapters.

Thirty Tomorrows: The Next Three Decades of Globalization, Demographics, and How We Will Live by Milton Ezrati. I’m not a fan of the book. I thought the title was deceptive. Most of the book looked backward at history, rather than looking forward. While it was extensively researched, few of the examples were after 2010. Technological and political developments over the past five years have made some of his theories obsolete. Some of the chapters were contradictory. No matter how much the US “jawbones” other countries, it can’t change their monetary policies. He underestimates the impact of job losses and changing demographics

The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory by Michael S. Malone. A poor choice of title and an ultimately flawed book. It’s not about human memory, it’s about the devices we’ve created to store information for us. I wanted to title it “From Stones to Skins to Silicon: the epic story of our mnemonic devices.” As a reporter in Silicon Valley, he had a great seat for the development of computers. He’s excellent on those chapters. He’s a little shaky on early history.

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 Happy Birthday, starwatcher307! Hope you have a wonderful day!
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Did you know that Madison was the last surviving member of the Constitutional Convention? These two books taught me a lot about the fourth President of the US.

Becoming Madison by Michael Signer. This book covers Madison's early years and his influences. It's written in a lighter style than Madison's Gift. John Witherspoon was his professor at what later became Princeton. Patrick Henry was a major antagonist for much of Madison's early life. Their disagreements culminated at the Virginia Convention to ratify the Constitution. I had no idea Henry opposed it so strongly. Much of the book focuses on what Signer calls Madison's Method for overcoming opposition. Madison didn't have much charisma but he was organized and went to trouble to learn his subjects thoroughly. It's an interesting read.

Madison's Gift
by David O. Stewart. A scholarly, well-written look at five major people with whom Madison collaborated in forming a new nation. Madison's gift was in forming partnerships. With Madison, Washington helped lead the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers, Jefferson founded the party system, and Monroe solved the problems of the French relationship. Some of the partnerships later ended in bitterness, but his marriage with Dolley was a love match. I knew it had been a struggle to form the new government but I am impressed with the details of what it took to win through. The Virginian Founding Fathers really struggled with the issue of slavery and that comes through clearly. I always think of Adams' comment and Franklin's rejoinder: "Mark me Franklin, posterity a hundred years hence will not forgive us." Franklin: "Independence first, then the rest."

I haven't been writing as much in the online journals because I've been working on some other writing. I wonder if I only have so many words in me every day :) I have more books to share later this week.
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 Two books are work-related, the other was fun.

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore. This is the 2014 update to the marketing classic, with new and timely examples. The author discusses and analyzes the challenges of bringing high tech products to market. He starts by clearly explaining his terms and how he sees the issues. The crux is how to make the jump from a niche to a wider market. I found the discussion extremely helpful. I think his ideas apply to intangibles as well as tangible products. It changed the way I thought about some of the Internet collapses we’ve seen over the past few years. Even if you aren’t in the field, the business insights are worth reading.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. This was an interesting discussion of getting people to return to your product, whether it’s web content, an online game, or something tangible. He uses the model of Trigger => Action => Variable Reward => Investment to describe his ideas. The power of variable rewards comes from differences each time the user clicks. The difference can just be more or different photos (as on Pinterest). Investment can be time, not just money. He also offers exercises to apply his process to the reader’s project.

In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art by Sue Roe. I was fortunate to receive an ARC for this book. In 1900 a teenaged Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris. Already there or soon to arrive were Derain, Vlaminck, Rousseau, Leo and Gertrude Stein, Paul Poiret, Diaghilev and of course Henri Matisse. The first decade of the 20th century changed the world for art, cinema, dance and fashion. The author keeps the focus tightly on culture – there isn’t much mention of political or scientific events. I learned a great deal about this remarkable decade and the development of Fauvism, Cubism and Modernism. She makes a persuasive argument that the development of cinema had an important effect on artists of the period. It is well written and interesting.

vamysteryfan: (Default)
 I made a truly yummy sweet potato hash over the weekend. It kept well in the fridge, too. Basically sweet potatoes, onions, red bell pepper, Italian sausage and a little rosemary for flavor. It was surprising satisfying as well as supplying veggies.  It was actually from a paleo cookbook.
ETA: don't know why the pics didn't show up. I'll see what I can do.
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This week's nonfiction book is What We Talk About When We are Over 60 edited by Sherri Daley and Linda Hughes. It's a collection of essays written by women. Some talk about the past, some the future. Some are depressing, some are inspiring. In other words, it's life. tI gave me a sense that it's never too late to try something new.

The Very Best of Charles DeLint. This was a gift in every sense of the word. The author collaborated with fans to pick the stories to be included. Charles DeLint also offered free downloads one day last month with the news being spread on social media. I found out from a friend and grabbed it. Many of the stories were new to me. I enjoy his urban fantasies quite a lot. While some of them are sad, most are decidedly optimistic. If you haven't read any of his work, this is a great way to get into it.
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton. I received an ARC of this book and thought I'd give the series another try. I think I should just accept the series isn't my cup of tea. The heroine is ditzy, the conceit of talking to a ghost through a book is repetitive, and the setting is unrealistic. There is an explanation of how Finch came to be but it didn't make a lot of sense to me.
Insatiable Appetites by Stuart Woods. This book actually takes place before Hot Pursuit. It opens with Kate Lee's presidential election. This is a better-than-usual entry in the series. It brings back a character that's been offstage for quite a while and ties up that loose end. Stone is more of a lawyer in this one. It's a nice quick read, perfect for airplanes.
Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline.  
<lj-cut text="** spoiler alert **">I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC for this book. This was an excellent read. An eminent psychiatrist is going through a messy divorce but his professional life is better than ever. Suddenly, he is hit with a sexual harassment suit and he is accused of unprofessional behavior with a patient as well. He has to solve the problems before he loses everything. One in 24 people in America are sociopaths, according to the book. They can "smile, and smile, and be a villain." We don't suspect who they are because they can mask themselves so well. The doctor is stunned to learn just who has been orchestrating his problems. The surprise twist at the end really surprised me. The first hundred pages or so were riveting. It slowed down a little in the middle but built to a very satisfying conclusion. This is a standalone - it doesn't contain any of her series characters. Well worth reading.</lj-cut>
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 Yesterday we had an all-day department meeting. It was pretty intense - my brain was fried by the end. We did get a nice little goody bag at the end. Mostly notebooks and pens and even a charger for tech devices. Isn't it funny that tech companies hand out notebooks and pens - the old style is still with us. Today is all catch-up. 

DC didn't get that much snow. It was mostly sleet. I hope my New York and Massachusetts friends are managing okay.


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December 2016

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