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Archive for September, 2012

My eldest came some time ago from his kindergarten singing a song that went like this:

“Melissa, Melissa, <unidentified jumble> Ai choo choo pego ai, Ai choo choo pego!”

I thought it was one of those meaningless songs that children come up with. When I was a kid, it was “Ai kaZuma”. Same old, you know? However, we were in the street and heard a faraway radio. And my husband suddenly says, “That’s our kid’s song! The choo choo one!”  So I used the absolute wonder of Google, and discovered that the song is a real song, in Portugese, called “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”, by Michel Telo. And it was famous about a year ago, including in Israel, where it conquered the top 20 charts.

That I could still ignore. But I was reading a Cracked article about famous musician’s previous careers, and I stumbled onto Chop Suey, of System of a Down. Never heard of it. After looking it up, I remembered vaguely a horrifically annoying song called “Lonely day” (the most loneliest day of my life, such a lonely day, lonely day, etc.). However, apparently their other songs are excellent. And they became famous in 2001.

Once I could have sang to you every new popular song, down to knowing the lyrics by heart. Everything that came out, I knew about and had an opinion on. And I kept avid track of my favorite artists, learning their new albums by heart.

And now? The last Metallica album I learned by heart was The Black Album, released in – gulp! – 1991 (Though I had a brief fling with their S&M album). PJ Harvey? I quit at Is This Desire?, released in 1998. Pearl Jam? I stopped following them after Vitalogy (1994). Norah Jones I “discovered” about a year ago – 10 years after she became famous. Amit Erez I really liked and bought the album… and stopped there. And, of course, I discovered the Maccabeats but that’s hardly difficult – they went viral on YouTube.

I have gotten so old.

So. Adding to the list of new years resolutions: Catch up on my favorite artists. Listen to System of a Down, Muse, and related songs as suggested by YouTube every once in a while. Otherwise I can already hear myself saying “The music of today all sounds the same to me. Oh, for the music of my youth…”

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I was arranging some paperwork, and found some advertisements for baby formula. Among all the explanations on why it’s the bee’s  knees, there was a short chart of developmental stages – what your baby should be doing at age one month, two months, etc. I quickly looked over the 3 month bit (as my daughter is now 3 months old! How time flies…) and found out that at three months my baby should be laughing “in response to funny situations and humour”.

Really? How do I test that, ask her if she heard about the one with the mathematician and the physicist? (Only physicists and mathematicians find it funny, anyway). She can’t talk and barely understands, she should respond to humour?

To get to the other side… that’s so funny!

 

Now that went straight into the paper recycling pile…

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This is a continuation of my previous post on the In Death series 1-3.

Romance/Suspense: A lot of romance, less violence than previous books.

Book 4 summary: Rapture in death: Eve and Roarke’s relationship evolves even more. Truly a beautiful romance. The murder story, however… The murderer was obvious, and the red herring was pursued way beyond belief. The actual murderer’s methods weren’t well explained at all. And I’m sorry, but Eve really is a mediocre cop. Yes, she cares. Yes, she tries to remain objective, but sleeping with a murder suspect (Roarke) in the first book, defending her friend Mavis (accused in Book 3) and pursuing our red herring in this book for personal reasons (very good ones 😉 ) does not convince us of this. Also, her attention to detail is less good than I would expect in such a great cop. And to cap it all, yet again there is a showdown between Eve and the murderer where Eve almost gets killed. But again, great Eve & Roarke connection. 3.5 stars.

I like rereading books, sometimes only specific passages and sometimes the entire book. The passages I reread are usually the climax of the book (how they found the murderer, how everything makes sense, how they solved their problems and got married 🙂 ). In these books, I reread all the Eve and Roarke bits. They are very emotional, very real, and beautifully written.

To summarize this series: If you’re looking for a suspense series with romance, this is not for you. The suspense is there, but it isn’t always believable. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a romance series that goes beyond the “happy ever after” and explores the dynamic of two damaged people who have remade themselves, this could be for you. As long as you don’t mind mild suspense and detailed violence 😉

So:

As a romance series: 5 stars
As a suspense series: 2.5 stars

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Shana Tova!

I wish you all a sweet and happy new year. May all your days be filled with happiness and may your loved ones bring you joy.

This past year was very momentous and emotional for me. I finished my PhD Thesis in Applied Physics. I advanced from a student job to a 2/3 job at my workplace, headed the software and some R&D projects that taught me a lot about what I can do. We bought the apartment next door and renovated it.  I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  My eldest started first grade. I have explored my limits in many of these settings and discovered things I didn’t know about myself. This last year has taught me I can be a wife, mother, physicist, software programmer, manager, teacher and most of all –  a better person than ever before.

May your discoveries be as momentous, and may we all continue to evolve, advance, and make the world a better place.

And to lighten the mood a bit, here is the latest from the maccabeats 🙂

Shana Tova!

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The In Death Series is written under a pseudonym as Nora Roberts wanted to try a different line of books. This series explores Lt. Eve Dallas of the NY Police force. Each book has her solving a different mystery. Each book also deepens her relationship with the rich and handsome Roarke. Both Eve and Roarke have remade themselves after a difficult childhood.

This series takes place in the future (supposedly 2058, but I don’t see all the changes there happening that fast). It most definitely doesn’t make it a science fiction series though. It seems to me to be partly for convenience, and partly out of wishful thinking that Nora Roberts set it in the future. She can change laws at her whim (“revised Miranda rights”), and she apparently loves putting in snide remarks about “late twentieth century” problems, or “early twentyfirst century” stuff. Also, she envisions a future where prostitutes are licensed and legal, birth defects are fixed in utero, and people are screened for psychopathic tendencies. However, murder remains popular (which I found a bit odd, but whatever).

Romance/Suspense: A lot of romance, a lot of violence. I had to skip some violent passages when reading this.

Book 1: Naked in death: Introduces Eve and Roarke, builds up their romance. The murder mystery is interesting and I, at least, didn’t see it coming (though it’s really not my metier, so probably others would). Well written, very suspenseful, very detailed descriptions of violence and abuse. I found it a book at once great and heartbreaking. 5 stars.
Book 2: Glory in death: Continues building on Eve and Roarke’s relationship. Introduces an interesting serial killer. I did guess the murderer on this one earlier. However, still very good. 5 stars.
Book 3: Immortal in death: Here a complication is thrown in – Eve’s best friend is accused of murder. In spite of all advice to the contrary, Eve takes the case as it is obvious to her that her friend is innocent in the face of the evidence. The interpersonal relationships in this book are very interesting, sometimes funny and sometimes harrowing. If it would have been the only thing happening in this book, it would have gotten 5 stars. But the mystery here was severely disappointing, and ends with a confession from the murderer out of left field instead of basic police work. This style is getting boring (the first book was similar) and I’m getting the impression that Eve Dallas is a terrible cop, which is certainly not the impression I’m supposed to get. Also, it’s getting tiring that all these murderers (in all three books!) are just dying to get her alone, confess, and then get arrested just before succeeding in killing her. Really tiring. 3 stars.

I’ve got the fourth book waiting in my ‘to read’ shelf. If it also ends the same way, I’ve finished with this series, no matter how hot Eve and Roarke are. I’ll get my interpersonal relationships without having to skip violent passages in other Nora Roberts books, and stick to Dick Francis et al. for my thrillers. At least his heroes figure out most of  the mystery by themselves before almost being killed. 😉

We shall see…

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The Born In trilogy is about the daughters of the Concannon family in Ireland. The backstory of the Concannon family is as poignant – or even more – than the romance of each novel. In addition, the romance is well written and satisfying. The first two books – Born in Fire and Born in Ice – are 5 star books, for everything: the backstory, the characters, the romance, the additional information on glass-blowing and writing.

The third book  (Born in Shame) is less satisfying on many levels. The third daughter was illegitimate and they only discovered her existence in the second book. I found her character less developed and less likable. However, what really killed the third book for me was the romance. I don’t mind some paranormal activity (I loved the Three Sisters Island trilogy) but this was over the top, with reincarnation and “we were lovers in another life” blah blah. No more than three stars, and if the backstory wouldn’t have remained interesting as before, it would have been less.

Romance/Suspense: This is a pure romance series – no violence, no suspense. Some descriptions of abuse.

Note: It killed me that even though most of the story hinges on out of wedlock pregnancy, no contraceptives were mentioned (or at best, mentioned only afterwards). Especially after reading that teenagers are more likely to have unsafe sex because they watch movies with unsafe sex. However, I did Nora Roberts an injustice. These books are relatively old. At that time it wasn’t popular to mention birth control, and considered private. All her newer books explicitly mention safe sex, and some specifically mention condoms or the pill, as in “The Next Always” (2011):

“I’m back on the pill. Is that aggressive or proactive?”
“That’s just smart”

🙂

Overall: 4.5 stars.

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Dear Mr. Sanderson,

You are a genius. Thank you.

~~~

I have just finished the first book of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight archive, “The Way of Kings”. I am nothing less than flabbergasted.

I am probably going to get flamed for this, but I honestly think that Brandon Sanderson is better than Tolkien. Tolkien’s story  was excellent, but his world was pretty like ours, with the people in it very human like, the technology and magic very simple and based on what we have in this world. Brandon Sanderson truly invents new worlds with new people and new technology, leaving them close enough to humans so we have something to read about but not so much that we can intuitively understand everything.

For example: One of the main weapons is a shardblade, 6 feet long. It cuts only through inanimate objects. If used against a human or animal, it kills without cutting the flesh. it causes limbs to go numb, and if used to behead, the person dies and his eyes burn. The only thing to withstand the shardblade is the shard plate, that has many interesting characteristics of its own. Brandon Sanderson created a whole new way of warfare and duels based on this weapon, and describes what tactics are used with this and why. The imagery of wariiors in shardplate and shardblade is beautiful.

Another example: One version of magic is to use light of glowing gems (Stormlight) to bind things to another temporarily or change gravitation temporarily. On the face of it rather boring. But Sanderson describes an assassin using this magic alone against tens of people and it is breathtaking in imagery and intelligence. The possibilities of this seemingly simple skill are endless.

The animals here are more like large beetles or crustaceans. The people have weird laws of heredity (people can have two or more colours of hair depending on their parents). The flora has adapted to a land of stone that has periodic very strong storms.

And with all this, Sanderson never  forgets the story. Sometimes funny, sometimes moving to tears, the story remains paramount.

Genius. Pure Genius.

The only problem is waiting ten years for him to finish the planned ten books of this series… The problems we constant readers have to bear. Sigh.

😛

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