What are you reading the week of November 18, 2023?

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What are you reading the week of November 18, 2023?

Nov 17, 11:57 pm

I think I've finally won my battle against the hackers at work. This week, I had to give a presentation to the executive council of the company at which I work. I laid out what happened and when, how they got around our multi-factor authentication, and how we managed to secure the network again. Then I presented my recommendations on how to prevent it from happening again. I received several nice comments from the company officers on the thoroughness of my investigation and my plans for improving security. But I still feel sick to my stomach knowing that the hackers got away with a million dollars. And I'm already hearing grumbling from the office workers about the more stringent rules.

With all of that, I did manage to finish The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov, and now I've started the second novel in his Galactic Empire series, The Currents of Space.

Editado: Nov 24, 2:21 pm

Having finished On Earth as It Is on Television, I'm now alternating between Tupolev Tu-22M: Soviet/Russian Swing-Wing Heavy Bomber (too heavy to lug around) and Streamliner. Cheyenne Summer will be next up after those.

Have moved on to November's Fury.

Nov 18, 11:27 am

>1 fredbacon: Congrats on your success against the hackers!

This week I enjoyed the audiobook The Orchid Thief. It was interesting, with zany characters, and priceless orchids, and a fair helping of cimininal activty.

Am halfway through The Five, which is about the lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper.

Nov 18, 9:31 pm

>1 fredbacon: That must be a good feeling to bring it to a close. Maybe this is too personal, but do you work for Mr. Cooper? My mortgage company was recently hacked and their problem to solution timeline has strangely coincided with your hacking story.

I'm reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It's been so good I hid from my coworkers 3 days this week to read during my lunch break.

Nov 19, 11:28 am

I recently finished Sappers in the Wire: The Life and Death of Firebase Mary Ann by Keith William Nolan. This is a well written history of an American military debacle during the last stages of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. My full review is up on my 50-Book Challenge thread.

I'm now reading an enjoyable pulp thriller, Intrigue in Paris by Sterling Noel. The book was originally published under the name Storm over Paris. My Avon edition was printed in 1955, making it more or less exactly as old as I am!

Nov 19, 9:06 pm

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
Digital audiobook performed by Sneha Mahan and Vikas Adam.

This is a cute YA romcom featuring two young Indian-American students who are trying to keep their parents happy while pursuing their own dreams.

Dimple Shah has her own dreams, and they do NOT include allowing her mother to pressure her into an arranged marriage with an “ideal Indian husband.” Still, she’s surprised when her parents agree to pay for her attendance at a summer conference for aspiring web designers.

Rishi Patel is a dutiful son, and a hopeless romantic. He actually welcomes having his parents arrange his romance. So, he is happy to attend the summer program (though he has only a passing interest in web design) because his “future bride” will be there.

Things get off to a rocky start, but their friendship slowly builds to something more … or does it? Told in alternating viewpoints, Menon gives the reader a satisfying and balanced romance.

Sneha Mahan and Vikas Adam take turns narrating the audiobook. They really bring these characters to life. Very effective audio performance.

Nov 19, 9:28 pm

>4 PaperbackPirate: No, I work for an R&D company that makes scientific instruments for environmental research. Mostly gas analysis and aerosol chemistry. When I started with the company twenty seven years ago, I modeled the infrared signatures of military vehicles: helicopters, planes, tanks, soldiers. The environmental chemistry section of the company was small but has grown to become the major source of our income. We've developed instruments that are now sold and used worldwide to understand what chemistry happens once emissions are released by vehicles, planes, forest fires, etc.

Managing the company network is just a side gig for me. Before the pandemic, we decided to get out of the DoD world. Now, I develop the software for instruments that measure nitrogen dioxide and particle concentrations in the air. In addition, I consult with many of the other groups in the company on software development related issues. They call me in when something isn't working, and they don't understand why.

For the past six weeks, my network management responsibilities have consumed all of my time. One of my recommendations was to hire a full-time, professional network engineer. We currently have a part-time consultant who is on-site once a week. Some things can't wait until he's available. A full-time engineer can do the nitty-gritty details of remediation and investigation, and I can just provide oversight. I have a lot of software improvements that I want to make to our instruments, but I lack the time to do it.

I hope someone finds this interesting. It's kind of off topic.

Nov 20, 7:26 am

>7 fredbacon: Yes, I found it interesting. It sounds like a hard job or actually like you're doing two jobs. Hope the company takes your recommendation.

I finished The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. which is a collection of essays and stories, part log of his travels in England and part tales from the States including the "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". His descriptions of scenes and characters are noteworthy.

Nov 20, 8:38 am

>7 fredbacon: Sounds a lot like the basic story of employment policy in the modern world; fewer and fewer people with expertise getting slammed with more and more work.

Nov 20, 9:51 am

>7 fredbacon: Very interesting! No company is immune to the hackers I guess. Thank you for sharing!

Nov 20, 1:12 pm

I've been doing some light holiday reading. The Christmas Appeal, a novella by Janice Hallett, is a follow-up to her The Appeal. It was laugh-out-loud fun without being dumb.

Now I'm reading Twas the Bite before Christmas by David Rosenfelt. Not as funny, but fun.

Nov 20, 5:16 pm

When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky – Margaret Verble

1920s Tennessee is the setting for this novel. Two Feathers (her stage name) is a Native American horsewoman who, determined to make her own way in the world, left her family’s Oklahoma ranch to join a Wild West show. Now she’s at the Glendale Park and Zoo in Nashville, performing twice a day as a horse diver. Her best friend at Glendale is Hank Crawford, a black man who tends the horses. When unexplained events begin occurring, Clive, the chief zookeeper, becomes involved. He is a veteran of World War I warfare and is haunted (literally and figuratively) by his experiences in the trenches.

What interesting characters! Verble weaves through elements of history not often covered in school from ancient bison tracks, to the forced expulsion of the Cherokee (Trail of Tears), to Jim Crow, to the desecration of ancient burial grounds, and to the effects of PTSD. She deftly incorporates magical realism, especially by using the ghost of Little Elk, a long-deceased warrior who longs to communicate with Two Feathers.

I was captivated by this unique story. All these characters had interesting journeys of self discovery, which required they to use intelligence, courage and perseverance. I absolutely loved Little Elk and cheered at his increasingly successful efforts to make his presence known. Two Feathers is a remarkable young woman – fiercely determined, intelligent, observant, loyal, resilient. Her personal journey is every bit as fascinating as Little Elk’s.

Editado: Nov 21, 12:16 pm

Starting this audio via hoopla ~

Thanksgiving Blessing
by Marta Perry

Nov 21, 8:55 am

The Little Princesses – Marion Crawford

Subtitle: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford
The subtitle is all the synopsis anyone needs.

I had the 2002 reprint edition with a forward by Jennie Bond, former BBC royal correspondent. She comments about how this reminiscence of two little girls growing up together ultimately resulted in Crawford’s complete banishment from the royal family. She had to leave the “grace and favor” cottage she had been given “for her lifetime” upon her retirement from service. Neither the Queen Mother, nor either of the Princesses (later Queen Elizabeth II) ever spoke to “Crawfie” again.

And yet there is nothing at all salacious about this memoir. Perhaps the most “shocking” revelation is that the two girls behaved like any other siblings: “Neither was above taking a whack at her adversary, if roused, and Lilibet was quick with her left hook!”

I really enjoyed the glimpse into a world I will never experience. Crawford covers the events that took place during the sixteen years she served the family; from her arrival at the Duke’s household (no hint that he would one day be King, and his eldest daughter the Queen), through the abdication of “Uncle David,” to the war years, to Lilibet’s marriage to Prince Philip, and the birth of their son, Charles.

The book was published in 1950, two years before Lilibet would assume the throne following her father’s death. By today’s standards it is hardly scandalous but it was a sensation when it was published.

Editado: Nov 22, 11:44 am

I finished the enjoyable pulp thriller from 1955, Intrigue in Paris, by Sterling Noel. The book was originally published with the name Storm over Paris. It's not a particularly plausible story, but it was still fun to read. Noel was actually a pretty good writer. I've posted a bit of a review on my 50-Book Challenge thread and on the book's work page.

Next up, I'll be dipping back into E.F. Benson's humorous Mapp and Lucia series with Mapp and Lucia, the book that bears the series' title but is actually the fourth of six entries.

Nov 24, 9:59 am

Yule Be Dead – Lorraine Bartlett with Gayle Leeson

Book number five in the Victoria Square cozy mystery series. Katie Bonner is finally making a go of the business her late husband started, but it was HIS dream, not hers. Her friendship with retired cop Ray Davenport is steady and her relationship with Andy is suffering from lack of attention. The mystery focuses on the death of Vonne Barnett, the daughter of Afternoon Tea owner Francine. Katie is at the tea shop when the deputy informs Francine that her daughter died in an auto accident, but it soon comes out that the accident was staged and that Vonne’s death was the result of blunt force trauma. Of course, Katie has to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Usually in a cozy you have an amateur sleuth who is somehow implicated (or has a close friend who is implicated) in the murder, and therefore feels compelled to investigate despite repeated warnings from the police to stay out of it. Here there is apparently no police investigation at all. At least not on the pages of the book. I have no idea why Katie feels compelled to stick her nose into the mess.

And then there is all the drama of her mother-in-law’s sudden visit, Katie’s indecision regarding buying the tea shop, and the apparently vying suitors for Katie’s affection. There are all sorts of sidebars that add nothing to the main story and do little to engage the reader. (I really didn’t care about the shoplifter or the ballerinas or Seth’s new boyfriend.) . Also, not at all interested in the “crafty artisans” of Katie’s business. Art made from dryer lint? Really?

I kept turning pages, and I did finish it (needed a “y” in a spelling challenge …), and I realized that I previously read another book in this series, but never started at the beginning. In any event, I’m not likely to continue this series. I like the author’s Booktown Mysteries (written under pen name Lorna Barrett) better.

Nov 24, 10:31 am

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
Book on CD narrated by Ruthie Ann Miles and Kamiko Green

This work of historical fiction focuses on the indigenous Akha people who make their living harvesting tea in the mountains near the borders with Laos and Myanmar. Li-yan is a young girl who follows her family tradition, but dreams of more. She is encouraged by her teacher who recognizes her intelligence, but she is soon derailed by love.

Lisa See has crafted a marvelous story of perseverance, cultural difference, and the enduring bonds of the mother-daughter relationship! Li-yan and her A-ma (mother) are wonderful characters. It’s interesting to watch the push/pull as Li-yan asserts her independence, and to see how, as she matures, she comes to appreciate (and even adopt) the traditions her mother holds so dear and against which Li-yan fought.

I also really liked the way See dealt with the drive towards capitalism that many of the Chinese embraced, not always with the desired result. Li-yan had to learn some hard lessons about real worth vs monetary reward.

There is a dual storyline, with an adopted Chinese child being raised by white Americans. Her journey of discovery and find a way to embrace both her American upbringing and her traditional culture was enlightening to me. I have friends who have adopted a Chinese girl, and they have taken a “heritage roots tour” to help her discover where she comes from. I could not help but wonder what she would make of this story.

The audiobook is well performed by two talented voice artists: Ruthie Ann Miles and Kamiko Green. I’m not sure who voices which character, but both are equally good and effective at bringing the characters to life.

Nov 24, 11:28 pm

The new thread is up over here.