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Betsy's Non-Blog

I'm not a blogger. I just love to read.

Currently reading

Karin Slaughter
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari Dr
The Silver Ships
S. H. Jucha

Stars of Fortune

Stars of Fortune - Nora Roberts A little more psi-paranormal gimmicks than I was expecting, including a seer, a wizard, a lycan, a mermaid, and an evil goddess, but it was a very enjoyable romp. The first installment of one of Roberts signature trilogies, I will definitely read the next one when it comes out.

Bay of Sighs

Bay of Sighs - Nora Roberts I read the first of this trilogy and enjoyed it only moderately, but enough to preorder this sequel. However, after reading about 50 pages, I find I can't continue. I just don't care what happens. I'm not interested in any of these people. It all just seems too ridiculous to waste my time on.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine - Michael Lewis [2/19/2016]
I still don't understand what a credit default swap is, or a CDO, or even a short. But I understand a little better who was a fault, and the kind of people who were involved in the whole incredible mess.

Well written, almost like a thriller, this book follows several men who saw what was coming and set out to make money from it. And they did. A lot of money. But it was not an easy ride. I can't say I identified with these people, or understood them, but the book was so well written that I kept wanting to know what happened next.

I recommend it to anyone who'd like a little better understanding of what happened in 2008 and what led up to it.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou [2/16/16]
Incredible command of language, imagery. This is clearly an accomplished poet. And the story was very moving, but I felt a little cheated when it ended well before her life was fully formed. It stopped when she was 15 (16?) at the birth of her first child, and I felt that that event, unlike some of the earlier ones, was glossed over, with little more than a mention.

I read this book because Ms. Angelou died and I realized I had never read anything by her, so I decided I wanted to do this one, partly out of shame, partly as a tribute to an amazing woman. I'm very glad I read it, but I'm not certain I will read any more.

I actually read only part of the book; instead I listened to the author reading it. I highly recommend this as a way to experience her writings. She has an incredible voice and she communicates her experiences personally without overly emotionalizing them.

The Galapagos Agenda (A Paradigm Shift Thriller Book 1)

The Galapagos Agenda (A Paradigm Shift Thriller Book 1) - Leonardo Wild A little over-the-top conspiracy theory, but a pretty good read. Gripping, suspenseful. Main character is pretty likeable.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - Jared Diamond Took me a year and a half to read this book. Not only because I'm a slow reader, though I am. But it was so long and there were so many other activities and books clamoring for my attention, that I got sidetracked several times. But it was worth coming back to. It's a fascinating study of how human societies succeed or not, in macro terms. It's very well written, but very long.

Secret Sisters

Secret Sisters - Jayne Ann Krentz The suspense was good, the plot reasonably tricky but not unpredictable, the characters believable, and the sex not too intrusive or explicit. The one thing I really missed is the humor that I'm used to seeing in Krentz fiction. Also, the development of subplots and secondary characters. It seemed that this book is all about the suspense. So, there may not be much reason to ever re-read it. Since I already know the perpetrator.

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code - Sam Kean I enjoyed this book, and I learned a number of things, but I also felt a little disappointed by it. It was a fairly easy read, not requiring much science knowledge, and it was well written, with humor and a relaxed story-telling vibe. But I felt that it lacked a cohesive purpose. The author told a lot of stories about what genes can do and have done, and they were all interesting and enjoyable to read. But at the end of the book, I still felt that I didn't understand a lot about how genes work and how they fit into our biology.

A Call to Arms

A Call to Arms - David Weber This is the second book in the "Manticore Ascendant" series, starring young Naval officer Travis Long. But Travis barely appears in the first third of the book. Instead the early action focuses on one of his friends (possible love interest in the future?). Also there's a lot of politics. But there is also a lot of fairly exciting action. And enough hints about the future to make me anxious for the next installment.

Shadow of Freedom

Shadow of Freedom - David Weber Second Read
I enjoyed it more this time. It is still annoyingly incomplete, but I think this time through I had a better appreciation of the scope. When you are trying to depict a galactic empire falling apart, it is probably necessary to focus sometimes on the peripheral action, the multitude of liberation activities among the verge worlds. It helps to understand the pressures that are gathering against the Empire of Manticore. But it makes it more frustrating when it stops at a critical time.

There is some real action in this book, from the attack in Saltash to the liberation of Mobius to the capture of the Meyers System. However, it still have a number of slow patches. Not the kind of "data dumps" that Weber is famous for, where he spends a chapter or two describing space hardware in excruciating detail, but long conversations -- long boring conversations that are more like speeches or reports than actual conversations -- that seem to be a device to advance the plot without having to get into that nitty gritty of action.

Still worth reading if you're a fan of the Honorverse.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End - Atul Gawande [11/3/2015]

Compelling and important.

I really enjoyed this book. It may sound strange to "enjoy" a book about dying, but it was very engrossing. It deals with issues that have a lot of meaning for me, since I've lost three close family members in the last eight years and for each of them I was responsible, with my siblings, for making decisions about end of life care and post death issues. I often felt that I was floundering not having a good idea what the options were or what resources there were to help me with those decisions.

Gawande discusses end of life care for various stages from mild incapacity to immanent death. His target audience is not just the family of the person needing care but also the medical community which so often seems to be part of the problem. He is sympathic and pragmatic, but basically he says that our current systems are failing our elders and terminally ill, and he proposes some possible changes in approach.

In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Gawande laments that he's not a better writer, that he needed so much help. That may be true, but if so, it was certainly a success. I think it is very well written -- clear, direct, concise. He presents his subject through a series of cases he was involved with. And he describes them with such respect and empathy and clarity, that we come to feel connected with those people and want to know what ultimately happened. I was so engrossed at the end of the book that I pulled a near-all-nighter to finish it.

Although many people think a discussion of end-of-life treatment might be very depressing, it's not. I think this book is basically hopeful. Because there are now a number of people and professions focusing of these issues, and there are possibilities for changes.

This is an important book because those changes will not really occur widespread unless a large section of the public and the medical profession both become involved in making the changes happen. So hopefully this book will spark some very public discussions in a variety of media. I encourage everyone I know to read this book.

A Rising Thunder (Honor Harrington)

A Rising Thunder (Honor Harrington) - David Weber [11/27/2011]

This is an ARC, e-book copy.

This book is a little unusual for Weber. No lengthy descriptions of technology or weaponry. No lengthy space battles; what confrontations do occur are averted or resolved quickly. Also, not very much Honor Harrington.

However, it's well written and engrossing as usual. And it's a logical progression in the saga of the Star Empire of Manticore and the very complex political situation of human space.

I enjoyed this book. My two complaints are:

(1) It's lack of focus on any particular person. Weber's longer books always seem to be rather diffuse because he brings in so many people and different viewpoints. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes not. But he usually has a central focus on one character. Not here.

(2) It is apparently the first part of a much larger work. It kind of stops in the middle, with much unresolved. And, of course, there's no telling when the next installment will be available.

After my second read. I actually enjoyed it much more. Maybe because it was in the midst of a reread of the entire Honor Harrington mainline series, so the events in the preceding books were much more immediate to me. This book seems to followup on a lot of the things that happened in the last book or two. They were therefor more meaningful for me.

Taken In Death (In Death, #37.5)

Taken In Death (In Death, #37.5) - J.D. Robb Novella length so too short. Good suspense throughout. Enough to get me to read it in one sitting.

White Lies (Arcane Society, #2)

White Lies (Arcane Society, #2) - Jayne Ann Krentz [8/1/15]
Not one of my favorite JAK stories. The leads fall into bed too quickly and they both seem a little obnoxious to me. But I generally like the series so I re-read this one whenever I revisit the series.

Copper Beach

Copper Beach - Jayne Ann Krentz Fairly standard JAK romantic suspense. Light, enjoyable, quick read.

Siren's Call (Rainshadow series)

Siren's Call (Rainshadow series) - Jayne Castle I liked this better than other recent Rainshadow novels. The characters are flawed and human, and interesting. The music talent makes a little more sense than some of the talents that Castle has dreamed up. And the plot in reasonably engrossing.