Sunday, March 22, 2015

[Book Review] Within These Walls

Within These Walls / Ania Ahlborn

In his heyday, Lucas Graham was a best selling true-crime author with a successful and brilliant wife.  Now he hasn't sold a new book in years, his wife in an affair with a co-worker, and their marriage broken.  Then hope comes in an offer from the mysterious and charismatic Jeffrey Halcomb, waiting on death-row since the orchestrated murder-suicide of his "faithful" years ago.  Jeffrey offers Lucas the true story of what happened, something that he's never shared, provided Lucas take residence at the site of the crime.  This story could be what saves Lucas, but it is soon clear that someone else is in control of the situation, and they may not have either Lucas' or his daughter's best interests at heart.

I'm not usually a reader of horror (though I suppose I've expanded a little bit of the course of last year into this genre).  I have an active imagination and stuff sticks with me, or at the very least comes back to haunt me when I'm trying to fall asleep.  But there's something to be said about a story that builds suspense and fills you with unease while captivating your interest.  That's what Within These Walls really did for me, fill me with malaise as I read.  The horror is in the emotions and psychological manipulation, not in blood and murder.

Entrancing read that makes you care about the characters and one that holds some surprises until the end.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

A change of pace

On Friday everything changed.  I went to a job interview expecting to interview for a part-time temporary position.  I left with a full-time job that not only pays a competitive rate, but utilizes both my MLS concentration and library experience, and is understanding of the ultimate likelihood that I will someday end up back in a library (in fact, they brought it up and stated they were OK with it).

I'm still processing this change of paradigm and I start tomorrow.

Over the past year I have worked a large number of positions.  My resume does not fully reflect the range of jobs worked, instead is limited to "library experience" (soon to be modified to "library & related experience").  Listing every job and placement out individually with their duties and responsibilities would get a little ridiculous, particularly in light of one-week temp postings.  Don't get me wrong, I have all the library temp positions listed, but under the heading of BiblioTemps rather than as individual jobs.

The quick summary of my employment over the course of 2014 through early 2015:
  • Seasonal work at a college bookstore
  • Five library temp placements, two in the same library, one lasting five months
  • Substitute teaching K-12
  • Web development contractor
  • Bookstore shipping
At one point I was bouncing between four temporary/part-time/on-call positions at the same time (it would have been five but substitute teaching was put on hold during this time).  In summary, on top of all of the other chaos of my life, I've been in a situation of high income insecurity.  And to be honest, it sucked.  Don't get me wrong, I love the opportunities that it allowed, but the stress of not knowing if I would meet my minimum monthly expenses, or even if I would have employment the following month/week/day is significant.  Not only that, but working as a temporary employee, especially in a position of some authority, you are inevitably in a very ambiguous and vulnerable place since you are so transitory (particularly when substitute teaching).

Suddenly I'll be working in a tangential position, just for a 'private' company (still a 501.3c) instead of a library, doing Records Management and IT/Systems.  I guess I'm due for a blog byline change.  Meanwhile I'm reaching out to folks for resources to re-familiarize myself with Records Management practices/guidelines/resources (it has been years since I've need to actively pull on this knowledge).  I'm excited to see where this goes.

[Book Review] The Glass Stiletto

The Glass Stiletto / Rachel Kenley

What if Cinderella didn't want to marry the Prince?  What if it wasn't just her beauty and mystery that caught the prince, but her sensuality and erotic dominance?

The Glass Stiletto starts at the meeting of 'Cinderella' (Mariella) and the Prince, and goes through their trials and explorations to reach 'happily ever after.'

In theory this is the type of story I love.  I collect fairy tales and fables, as well as their retellings.  In reality we have an erotic novella that's doesn't really feel like a fairy tale, and in which I ended up skipping past most of the sex scenes just to finish the book.  At 109 pages I didn't feel that I could really justify not finishing, and with such a short book I might as well verify if my guesses about the end came to pass.  I think the only thing that I guessed at regarding the villains is the chief antagonist never actually tried to rape Mariella (just manipulated one of his collaborators try it instead).

If you like stories of castles and princes that seem to have an oddly contemporary feel and villains of the overbearingly obvious twisted self-interest this will appeal to you.  This book does stand out in that the sexual dominant is the woman, not the man.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, February 2015

This Guy Has the Best Books Displays Ever
Serious inspiration for me to not only step up my game, but to maybe stop worry about coming across a bit too naughty in my book displays.

Writing About Rape
Rape in is a difficult area.  Rape happens, and it is a profoundly traumatic experience, so of course we see it in fiction.  But how it is treated is often problematic, and something that has ruined many books for me.  I found this a really good addressing of the subject.

Custom Book Signage
Because we've all thought it...

SFF Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey
I can say that the book son this list that I have read are phenomenal.  Those that I haven't yet read are floating around on my "to read" list.

9 Erotica Books That Should Be More Famous Than “Fifty Shades Of Grey”
Ok, I've actually read none of the books on this list (though I can think of a few that should be added).  What I can say is that many of the books on this list I have seen brought up regularly in the "what to read instead of/in addition to" Fifty Shades.  The Crossfire series is getting a lot of attention as a to read in addition to, and being hailed as in the style of Fifty Shades... though it actually predates Fifty Shades by a bit, but was not something publishers were interested in at the time.

Google's Vint Cerf warns of 'digital Dark Age'
TL;DR - digital isn't really a great for long term archives.

This Badass Computer Pioneer Is Finally Getting Her Due
Grace Hopper is one of those bad-ass women that I didn't learn about until working on my Masters.

Surprise! America Already Has a Manhattan Project for Developing Cyber Attacks
On cybersecurity.

I tried to use the Internet to do historical research. It was nearly impossible.
On navigating the ridiculous amount of data out there.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

[Book Review] We Are All Completely Fine

We Are All Completely Fine / Daryl Gregory (Powell's Books)

I originally reviewed this book/novella several months back, but then I went ahead and threw it into the reading list for Virtual Speculation.

From my original review:
There is something almost painfully intimate about this story.  We're learning about these deeply damaged individuals not through their life or as they surmount challenges, but largely through a series of group therapy sessions.  The story is told through their fears and obsessions, rather than their actions.

What happens after your survive the monsters and the attention fades away.  Can you resume your life?  And have you really escaped?
We Are All Completely Fine tells the story of 5 victims who survived incidents of nightmarish horror, and are now living in a world that doesn't acknowledge that there are real monsters in the night.

Discussion Fodder:
  • How have the characters created shields around themselves in the wake of their trauma?  How are they dealing or not dealing?  What do you think of their obsessions?
  • Barbara has visible scars, but what really bothers her is hidden inside.  She envies Greta, "What had been done to her was right there, written where anyone could see."  Do you think this is a deliberate analogy to cultural disdain for depression?
  • Their experiences have changed them in different ways.  Harrison was 'infected' through a bite as a child, Greta was created into a vessel for a being from another realm, and Jan isn't quite what you'd expect.  Are they still human, or have their experiences made them into something else?  Are they monsters?
  • How does the presence of scars or permanent damage change the healing and remembering experience?  Stan is the only one who cannot hide the damage done to his body, but the others keep their scars under wrap.  How do their coping methods and personal fixations mirror those who suffer from more "mundane" trauma and PTSD?  Are their coping methods reasonable?
  • "All of the group members, Jan included, were certain to die, almost certainly alone.  What the patients didn't understand was that this was the human condition.  The group members' horrific experiences had not exempted them from existential crises, only exaggerated them."  What else makes up the human condition?  How does surviving horrific experiences change (or not change) it?
  • At the end of the book Martin ask, "Is it over?  Do we ever get to just... win?"  Do you think it ever ends?  Is there escape?  Or does the horror always come back, just wearing a different face?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

[Book Review] Ares' Temptation

Ares' Temptation / Aubrie Dionne

Kaye Underhill has never felt quite so out of her league or so single than when she attends the wedding of her best friend, the Greek goddess Syrinx.  Of course, the man to catch her eye is the hot-tempered god of war, Ares.  When Hecate's curse transfers Ares' powers to Kaye, the only way for Ares to regain his powers is to get Kaye to fall in love with him.  Romance is not Ares' bailiwick, but without his powers he is left little choice.  Only, as he gets to know Kaye, the betrayal inherent in his actions starts to weigh heavily on his conscience.

This book is pretty much exactly what you'd expect on picking it up, if a bit chaster than expected considering the common correlation between ab definition on the cover to sex in the pages.  In many ways it is your classic romance novel.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Monday, March 2, 2015

[Book Review] Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy : The Many Faces of Anonymous / Gabriella Coleman

This made for a very interesting read, particularly since I know people who are friends with persons mentioned, people who have been hurt by persons mentioned, and I possibly know some of the persons mentioned.

Beyond any connection and familiarity I have with the people and events in Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, this book is a fascinating and well-written exploration of Anonymous, hactivisim, privacy, security, and the political theater surrounding these issues.  I spend way too much time online, so I started with a working knowledge of the events within, but the writing clearly explains so that someone without this familiarity can understand and follow.

Like Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Anonymous has its own counter-culture made up of curiosity and mischief.  Like phone phreaks before them, they hack because they can, a joyous (for them) exploration and exploitation of systems that this group of individuals shares.

The language in the book is not delicate, reflecting on the at times inflammatory language used within forums and chats.  The narrative also reflects on the collaboration and anarchy of the various lose collectives of actors on this stage.  The book goes beyond just the actions of Anonymous and into an important discussion on laws relating to cyber-security.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.