Book Review: "Iron and Magic" by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant, #1)Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Iron and Magic" by Ilona Andrews is the first of a spin-off series from the Kate Daniels universe. It begins with the character of Hugh D'Ambray, Roland's former warlord and Kate's one-time stalker. Roland casts Hugh out after Hugh fails to get Kate to willingly agree to meet with Roland. So Hugh has sunk into a drunken stupor, waiting to die.

Hugh is forced to become sober and help out the remnants of the Iron Dogs, the fighting force he put together for Roland, because Hugh's enemy, Landon Nez, is hunting and killing all of the Iron Dogs that he can find. With his back against the wall, Hugh agrees to marry The White Warlock, a woman leading a group of people called The Departed.

This book explains who Hugh is, why he did what he did in the Kate Daniels books, and why he worshipped Roland. It also hints at who Hugh might have been in different circumstances. Elara Harper, The White Warlock, is a a new character in the universe, though there is a reference to her during a conversation with the Witch Oracle. The readers learn about Elara and the Departed alongside Hugh and his Dogs.

I read the entire book in one day. Not that I didn't have other things to do, but because the story pulls you in. You just don't want to put the novel down until you know what happens. How do Hugh and Elara work together? What's going on with Landon Nez? How will the Iron Dogs fit in with the Departed?

There are more questions, but that would be spoilers. Let's just say I now think of Hugh as a good guy combined with an anti-hero.

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Book Review: "The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve" by Steve Stewart-Williams

The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture EvolveThe Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"The Ape That Understood the Universe" by Steve Stewart-Williams is an amazing book that discusses how evolutionary forces shaped human beings, and continue to shape human beings, in terms of culture and psychology. The book begins with a fictitious report by an alien species on the strange life on the planet, asking all sorts of questions that seem obvious once someone points them out. Stewart-Williams then goes on to explain humanity, answering the alien's questions.

I found this book to be interesting, in the good sense of the word. I also found that I could not read it as quickly as I read other books. I would cover one section, and then my brain felt full. There is no better metaphor for the sensation. I spent time thinking about what I read, and sometimes I would even reread sections. It was a slow, wonderfully-engaging narrative that made me think about what it means to be human.

I recommend this book to anyone who wonders about who we as a species are, why we exist, and where we might be going.

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Grow with Google - I Won a Scholarship!



Let me tell you a story.  Long, long ago in a faraway land (Tennessee), I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science and English.  I worked at IBM, Sykes Enterprises, Digital Equipment Corp, and The Leader Group before deciding to become a full-time stay-at-home Mom.  For the past 20 years, I raised my kids, volunteered at school, ran a Girl Scout troop, cooked, cleaned, and did all the "mom" stuff.  In my spare time, I wrote a book, worked on this blog, and kept up with the changes in technology.

My youngest kids is now 16 years old, and leaving the house in two years.  So I've been contemplating what I want to do with my life now.  Last November, I learned about the Grow with Google scholarship.  Basically, Google asked people to sign up for one of four tracks.  If accepted, you had three months to complete a challenge course.  The top 1,500 students from each track then won full scholarships to earn nanodegrees from Udacity.com

Early January, I learned that I was accepted into the challenge course.  I finished it rather quickly, and I helped out on the forums and Slack for the rest of the time.  Then this past April, I learned that I won the scholarship.

Yay, me!!!



So I am now working on a front-end web development nanodegree.  I work with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript (up to ES2015), Jasmine testing suite, frameworks,...  The amount of new technologies to learn is a bit staggering.  I'm lucky in some ways because I actually worked on the web before leaving my job.  I know most of the concepts already, so I'm just learning how to do things in this brave, new world.  

But I'm terrified.  I haven't worked outside my home for 20 years.  How will I get a job?  I mean, do people hire someone with such dated experience?  Or such a dated college degree?

I think constantly about the future, wondering how to handle the situation.  Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that I don't have to burn cross that bridge until I get to it.

Monday Thought

World tensions have, if anything, increased in the quarter century since H.G. Wells uttered his glum warning: 
"There is no more evil thing on earth than race prejudice, none at all. I write deliberately -- it is the worst single thing in life now. It justifies and holds together more baseness, cruelty and abomination than any other sort of error in the world."
                                        
 -- Sydney Harris