The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-7-24

As many Reading Reality regulars may already be aware, on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, our beloved Lucifer T. Cat left us to climb the Rainbow Bridge. My post from Wednesday, Bitter to Receive, celebrates a bit of his life with us and pours out the smallest measure of my grief – but I still feel as if I’m on the verge of tears most of the time.

The remaining members of the clowder, Hecate (now eldest as well as grumpiest), George, Luna and Tuna, all circled around and sniffed his carrier after we came home without him, but seem to be settling into their new normal. Their humans are still utterly unsettled.

I’ve been reading ahead a lot these last couple of days, as well as re-reading a whole bunch of comfort reads. It’s one of the ways that I deal with things. Galen’s been playing a good but kind of creepy game, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, and now I’m playing it too. It’s a game about dealing with ghosts, and isn’t that a bit on-target right now – at least for this household?

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book PLUS EVENT-WIDE AMAZON/PAYPAL PRIZE in the Early Summer Giveaway Event
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the SUMMER 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop
B+ #BookReview: Better Living Through Algorithms by Naomi Kritzer
A- #BookReview: Guard the East Flank by M.L. Buchman
Bitter to Receive
#GuestPost: July 4th 2024
Christmas in July Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (608)

Coming This Week:

The Mummy of Mayfair by Jeri Westerson (#BookReview)
Penric and the Bandit by Lois McMaster Bujold (#BookReview)
This Great Hemisphere by Mateo Askaripour (#BookReview)
Daughters of Olympus by Hannah M. Lynn (#BookReview)
The Price of Redemption by Shawn Carpenter (#BookReview)

Stacking the Shelves (608)

Occasionally, Amazon’s attempts to match something-a-likes to whatever you’re searching for gets a bit, well, odd. The first entries for a search for Lightfall by Ed Crocker, I searched for “Lightfall Crocker” figuring that would be enough. The top entry for that search is a The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I get the “Crocker” part but can’t figure out where the “Lightfall” comes in.

Mr. Crocker’s not-a-cookbook aside, the prettiest covers in this week’s stack are The Bones Beneath My Skin and Remember When, and, as usual, they’re both pretty but not pretty the same at all. The books I’m most intrigued by are Earthlight and When Women Ran Fifth Avenue – of course for entirely different reasons.

Galen is particularly curious about The Elements of Marie Curie. I heard the author, Dava Sobel, speak at the ALA Conference last weekend, so I was interested, but when I told him about the book he was REALLY intrigued.

And the two books I’m most definitely looking forward to – and one of those immediately – are Penric and the Bandit and Shoestring Theory. I adore the Penric and Desdemona series, and Shoestring Theory, well, there’s a cat.

For Review:
Before We Forget Kindness (Before the Coffee Gets Cold #5) by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
The Bones Beneath My Skin by TJ Klune
Earthlight by J. Michael Straczynski (audio)
The Elements of Marie Curie by Dava Sobel
Jackpot Summer by Elyssa Friedland
Lightfall (Everlands #1) by Ed Crocker
Remember When: Clarissa’s Story (Ravenswood #4) by Mary Balogh
Shoestring Theory by Mariana Costa
Trajectory by Cambria Gordon
When Women Ran Fifth Avenue by Julie Satow
Wooing the Witch Queen (Queens of Villainy #1) by Stephanie Burgis

Purchased from Amazon/Audible/Etc.:
Penric and the Bandit (Penric and Desdemona #13) by Lois McMaster Bujold

If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media!

There’s a saying about cats, that they want to be in when they’re out, out when they’re in, and vice versa, AND simultaneously. Humans are like that about the weather.

When it’s cold we want it to be hot. When it’s hot we want it to be cool. And sorta/kinda both, which is how Christmas in July came about. The weather is warm, the nostalgia about the holiday is cool – and the Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments for the year arrive around July 25.

Christmas in July is far, far, FAR from a serious event, but ANY excuse to give and receive presents is a good one. So, what sort of tchotchkes would you like to receive in your Xmas in July stocking? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book to put inside that stocking!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more seasonal, or at least seasonal-ish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

July 4th 2024

President Johnson on July 4th, 1966, regarding the signing of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):

THE MEASURE I sign today, S. 1160, revises section 3 of the Administrative Procedure Act to provide guidelines for the public availability of the records of Federal departments and agencies.

This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: A democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.

At the same time, the welfare of the Nation or the rights of individuals may require that some documents not be made available. As long as threats to peace exist, for example, there must be military secrets. A citizen must be able in confidence to complain to his Government and to provide information, just as he is–and should be–free to confide in the press without fear of reprisal or of being required to reveal or discuss his sources.

Fairness to individuals also requires that information accumulated in personnel files be protected from disclosure. Officials within Government must be able to communicate with one another fully and frankly without publicity. They cannot operate effectively if required to disclose information prematurely or to make public investigative files and internal instructions that guide them in arriving at their decisions.

I know that the sponsors of this bill recognize these important interests and intend to provide for both the need of the public for access to information and the need of Government to protect certain categories of information. Both are vital to the welfare of our people. Moreover, this bill in no way impairs the President’s power under our Constitution to provide for confidentiality when the national interest so requires. There are some who have expressed concern that the language of this bill will be construed in such a way as to impair Government operations. I do not share this concern.

I have always believed that freedom of information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials or private citizens, should determine when it must be restricted.

I am hopeful that the needs I have mentioned can be served by a constructive approach to the wording and spirit and legislative history of this measure. I am instructing every official in this administration to cooperate to this end and to make information available to the full extent consistent with individual privacy and with the national interest.

I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people’s right to know is cherished and guarded.

Despite the second and last paragraphs of this statement, Johnson was in fact far from a fan of FOIA. Per White House press secretary Bill Moyers, Johnson “had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing”. FOIA has had a checkered history over the years, but has enabled an unprecedented degree of transparency around government decisions, exemplified by the National Security Archive.

Freedom must be fought for every, but it is not just the result of stirring battles and speeches on the fields of sacrifice and victory. The quotidian matters as well: does this plan make sense? Do the numbers pencil out? Is the government correct in arresting this one individual or another? It is our responsibility as U.S. citizens to enact and protect our own freedom. Thus, a challenge for the year: are you confused about a government action? Disagree with it? Don’t just sit there: consider filing a FOIA request.


Bitter to Receive

On the morning of July 3, 2024, our dearly beloved Lucifer, the cuddliest demon cat in the world, lost his battle with age, arthritis and as we discovered at the end, cancer. We knew he was getting older by the day, we knew his arthritis was slowing him down, but the cancer was a surprise – and a terrible one.

He just wasn’t himself when we got back from ALA late Monday night. It seemed like he perked up seeing us home, but that perk was brief and by the next evening it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable and couldn’t really get around under his own power.

Today he’s gone. I want to believe to the Rainbow Bridge, playing – or more likely sitting on the sidelines looking dignified as he always did – riding herd on the beloveds who went before him; Freddie, Mellie, LaZorra, Sophie, Erasmus, Zade, Jennyfur and my dearest Licorice.

Lucifer was the first cat I’ve had since Licorice who chose me – and not my husband – as his person. I’ve loved every single cat in between, but Lucifer was special, a heartfelt and now heartbreaking memory of just how marvelous it is to be loved so much by a cat who could – and once upon a time did – do fine on his own but choose to give his heart to a human instead of remaining a solitary soul.

More than one vet has told me that cats with demonic or evil-seeming names are generally sweethearts, while cats who have sweetheart names tend to be, well, less than sweet. Lucifer certainly wasn’t named for his demonic nature – but rather for his ability to deceive. The friend who rescued him from his feral life believed that Lucifer was a)female and b)in need of neutering when in fact he was the opposite in both cases.

When Erasmus lost his battle with cancer twelve years ago, the post about his passing was titled Not All Tears Are Evil, a reference to the parting at the Grey Havens at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

The title of this post also refers to The Lord of the Rings, specifically to the appendices regarding the death of Aragorn, when Arwen proclaims that “if this (death) is the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.”

When it comes to cats, the tragedy is always that our lives are so long, and theirs are so short. And it is bitter to receive. Lucifer will never sleep on my heart again. But he will sleep in it forever.

A- #BookReview: Guard the East Flank by M.L. Buchman

A- #BookReview: Guard the East Flank by M.L. BuchmanGuard the East Flank: a military romantic suspense (Night Stalkers Reload Book 1) by M L Buchman
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: action adventure romance, military romance
Series: Night Stalkers Reload #1
Pages: 358
Published by Buchman Bookworks on July 1, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Emily Beale returns! And the Night Stalkers will never be the same.

Captain Sharelle Vargas may be the best pilot in the 160th SOAR helicopter regiment, but is she ready for Colonel Emily Beale?
Captain Troy Ryland loves three things in his his family farm, flying the most lethal helicopter in the US military, and the woman he flies with. Each pull him in a different direction. The clock isn’t ticking—it’s running out!
A new mission slams them into action as they must infiltrate the notorious “Wind from the East”—Russia. Once in, will their combined skills prove enough to escape with their lives and their hearts intact?
“(For) fans of Suzanne Brockmann, Maya Banks, Catherine Mann, and Kaylea Cross.” – Booklist
“OMG, I love how this guy writes military romantic suspense!!” – Smitten with Reading

My Review:

Lieutenant Colonel Emily Beale was a legend among the Night Stalkers. And so she should be, considering her many, many firsts and achievements and successful missions. (If you want details – and you should if you love military romance! – check out the original Night Stalkers series that began with The Night is Mine.)

The thing about legends is that people generally expect them to be dead. Or at least retired. Definitely past their prime.

But Emily Beale is none of the above. She’s clearly not dead, she’s still on active duty, and she’s not in the least past her prime. It’s just that her missions have shifted from overt to so covert they are black-in-black, while she seemingly spends her days and her time and her energy running Henderson Ranch and it’s many, many side-businesses with her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Henderson (retired) and raising their tween daughters.

It’s a good life. It’s a happy life. And it’s a fulfilling life. Well, it is for Mark. For Emily – not quite so much. Almost, but not quite.

Which is when and where Colonel Cassius McDermott, the current commander of the Night Stalkers, drops into Henderson Ranch with an offer that Emily Beale both does and doesn’t want to refuse. Cass is being promoted out of the job he’s held for the past decade. The Night Stalkers need someone who knows the command from the inside out AND has the necessary intelligence and experience to think outside the box – because 21st century warfare no longer takes place inside that box.

The Night Stalkers need Emily Beale to step up and take the reins – at least long enough to prepare someone to follow the trail that she’ll blaze. Again.

Escape Rating A-: There are two – or maybe it’s three – plot points circling the skies in this first book in the Night Stalkers Reload series.

(If you haven’t read the original series, it is marvelous and well-worth a read. Howsomever, you don’t have to read it first to get into this one. As with many romance series, it’s the setting and the setup that carries over from book to book – or series to series – and not the main characters. Not that previous main characters don’t appear in later books or later series, but you don’t have to know – or remember – all the deets about what happened before to get into what’s happening now. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t WANT to, but you don’t HAVE to.)

Back to those plot circles. The first, biggest and most obvious is the return of Emily Beale to the Night Stalkers. Not because she takes over the story, but she does take command, links long-term readers back to the original series – and, and most importantly – shows Beale as a woman at mid-career AND midlife caught between a huge rock and a ginormous hard place that seems real to any woman caught in that middle – even if they aren’t or weren’t an elite fighter pilot.

Emily loves her family, loves the life they’ve built, is mostly satisfied with the way things are and feels all of her commitments very strongly. Those black-in-black operations that she handles intelligence and analysis for keep her hand in without taking her away from the life she’s built.

But she’s not done, not intellectually and not emotionally. Her husband has retired from the military because their life at Henderson Ranch satisfies him all the way down to his toes. That’s not true for Emily. And yet, she doesn’t want to go back into the field.

Which doesn’t mean that there isn’t something missing in her life. Just as there will be something missing if she takes command of the Night Stalkers. Either choice leaves her half-bereft and full of regrets.

It’s so easy to feel for her dilemma. The specifics of her choice aside, the fact that she has to choose is very true-to-life. And that eventually realizes that she can’t handle the huge task before her without help – both from her family and from the people she commands and serves with.

At the same time, as with all of the books in the Night Stalkers series, there are two other plots that move from the foreground to the background as the story follows the early months of Emily’s command.

Both of those storylines rotate around Captains Sharelle Vargas and Troy Ryland, the present-day number one pilot team in the 160th SOAR. Their relationship is in flux in multiple ways. They’ve been carrying torches for each other since the day they were assigned together – three long years ago. But Troy knows that he’s a short-timer, getting out after 10 years to return to his family’s struggling farm. And he knows that Sharelle is in until the day they take her wings – or rotors – away.

A relationship is impossible – or it should be. But even as Troy’s contract is winding down, their romance is heating up.

And so is the danger of the black-in-black mission they’ve been assigned – to disrupt the supply chain between North Korean arms manufacturers and the Russian military fighting in Ukraine. All they’ll have to do is sabotage the Trans Siberian Railway using stolen Russian helicopters in Russian airspace with no one being the wiser – not even on their own side. Ever.

The mission is fascinating – and perhaps just a tiny bit prescient – which is scarier than any reader will want to admit. The romance is very much in the author’s trademark style in that it is a relationship of absolute equals in every possible way. Even if Troy has a bit of the misunderstandammits – not with Sharelle, but with his own hopes, dreams and particularly his obligations. For a really smart man – which he is – the situation he’s put himself into is pretty much the opposite.

But he does finally get his brain in gear along with his heart, leading to a terrific happy ending for the romance, even as the future of the Night Stalkers begins to wrap itself around his partner.

I’ve been a fan of this author since I read the very first Night Stalkers book, The Night is Mine, back in 2012. This series – and all of the author’s other series that I’ve dipped into and/or devoured over the years – have always been an excellent reading time – and this first entry in the Reload series absolutely did not buck that trend.

If you’re a fan of military romance in particular, or if you are just jonesing for a romance where the characters are always standing on equal ground – in spite of or because of whatever emotional baggage they may be trailing behind them – Buchman is a author who always delivers no matter the setting or setup. This reader will certainly be back for the next book in the Night Stalkers Reload series whenever it appears – and in the meantime I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the Miranda Chase series, Wedgetail, coming this Fall!

#BookReview: Better Living Through Algorithms by Naomi Kritzer

#BookReview: Better Living Through Algorithms by Naomi Kritzer“Better Living Through Algorithms” by Naomi Kritzer in Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 200, May 2023) by Naomi Kritzer
Narrator: Kate Baker
Format: ebook, podcast
Source: podcast, supplied by publisher via Hugo Packet
Formats available: ebook, magazine, podcast
Genres: hopepunk, science fiction, short stories
Series: Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 200
Pages: 13
Length: 36 minutes
Published by Clarkesworld Magazine on May, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Clarkesworld Magazine, May 2023 issue (#200) contains:
- Original fiction by Naomi Kritzer ("Better Living Through Algorithms"), Harry Turtledove ("Through the Roof of the World"), Suzanne Palmer ("To Sail Beyond the Botnet"), Rich Larson ("LOL, Said the Scorpion"), Parker Ragland ("Sensation and Sensibility"), Megan Chee ("The Giants Among Us"), An Hao ("Action at a Distance"), and Jordan Chase-Young ("The Fall").
- Non-fiction includes an article by Carrie Sessarego, interviews with Premee Mohamed and Megan O'Keefe, and an editorial by Neil Clarke.

My Review:

This story was simply adorable – if both realistic and a bit sad. And sad because it was realistic and realistic because sad. With just the right tinge of hope to lift it up at the end.

It’s also surprisingly SFnal for a situation that sits in the uncanny valley where what used to be SF has become the real. It feels like it’s part of the lab-based SF tradition but there’s no actual lab. Or we’re all the lab. Or a bit of both.

Let me explain – or at least try.

Better Living Through Algorithms is set either in the RIGHT NOW or at a point in time so close that it might as well be now. It doesn’t need any aliens or space ships and there’s no computer virus running amuck.

What there is is an app. Just like now. But the app isn’t exactly like any of the usual suspects – although it’s perfectly capable of seeming like any or all of them.

Abelique combines elements of a productivity app, and a time management app, and a health monitoring app, wraps the whole thing up in a self-reflective little bow and ties it off with a bit of mystery.

When Linnea first hears about Abelique from her early-adopter friends, it sounds like a cult and she’s NOT INTERESTED. When her boss pushes her to try it – at work – he makes it sound like a productivity app. He also makes it sound like she’d better just do it.

So she does – to the point of doing the long and somewhat intrusive setup on work time – because if her boss is making references to her last and next evaluations as he’s “encouraging” her, it is. But Linnea gets hooked on Abelique the minute that it tells her it will help her lie to her boss. Because that’s clearly not the hallmark of a productivity app. At all.

And she’s in.

Through Linnea’s adoption of Abelique we see the whole life cycle of a viral app, as well as more than a bit of the nitty-gritty about how that sausage gets made. Abelique structures her day and her time – but in really good ways. It encourages her to connect with both new people and old dreams. It keeps her from becoming a drone of a worker bee.

All of which happen because she lets it invade her privacy – all for her own good. Which it actually is. At least until the inevitable end of the life-cycle comes and she stops using Abelique, gives up all of those good habits and goes back to her old routine.

But something remains, not of Abelique but of the person she leaned into while she used it. And that gives the story a much-needed little uplift at the otherwise sad but expected ending.

Escape Rating B+: I really did love this – not because the AI behind Abelique knows better than we do – but because it knows exactly what we know and just don’t pay attention to. None of the things that Abelique asks – and it’s always an ask and not a demand – are news.

People are happier when they have fewer small decisions to make. People are happier when they get outside more. People are more productive when they get enough sleep. People do feel better when they have space for a bit of creativity in their lives. Etc., etc., etc.

Abelique just puts all of those things that are already known into a package that seems cool and goes viral – for a little while. Because viral apps are only viral for a little while. It can’t last because of other predictable bits of human behavior – but it is lovely while it does.

In the end, this is a bit of hopepunk, in that some of what Linnea learns while she’s participating in Abelique remains – and not just for her – even after the app’s inevitable ending.

This was a story that I enjoyed while I was listening to it, but it wasn’t terribly deep and left me more than a bit sad at the end. As much as I liked it while I was listening, it doesn’t overtake How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub on my Hugo ballot.

But reading it did leave me with a habit that I don’t plan on letting go of. I listened to this story from the Clarkesworld podcast reading. They read all the stories they publish in the magazine – as does Uncanny Magazine. I’ll definitely be looking for more of those podcasts, not just for the Hugo nominations, but for whenever I’m searching for excellent stories to listen to, even though there isn’t an app to tell me to.

Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

For this hop a couple of years ago, we were just back from a conference and we both had the plague – otherwise known as COVID. This time around, we’re on our way home today and don’t know whether the usual “con crud” will turn out to be COVID or not. We’ll certainly find out in the days ahead.

Speaking of those days ahead, one of the days ahead this week is the July 4th holiday. The humans will probably set off fireworks all weekend, and the animals will mostly be pissed off and quite possibly piss on something their owners wish they hadn’t. C’est la vie.

While we’re not particularly looking forward to the random booms half the night we certainly are looking forward to the holiday – even if that means more time reading while staying inside where it’s air conditioned.

What about you? What are you most looking forward to this Independence Day and the hot days of July and August to follow?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more sparkly prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-30-24

It was a very ‘B’ week, with one notable exception. Ivy, Angelica, Bay by C.L. Polk was exceptional, as was the podcast of St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid, the short story that sets it up. Which also led to my discovery of the podcast Levar Burton Reads and now I’m totally hooked.

As you read this, I’m in San Diego for this year’s American Library Association Conference, no doubt adding to the height of my already towering TBR pile. The cats are being taken care of – but we know they still miss us based on how clingy they are when we get back. And we certainly miss them.

But none of us are missing the kitty interloper (kittyloper?) on the outside of the catio screen in this picture – and the number of screen patches has quadrupled since this was taken! Clearly this cat can see that our clowder has a good thing going and he wants to be part of it!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book PLUS EVENT-WIDE AMAZON/PAYPAL PRIZE in the Early Summer Giveaway Event
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the SUMMER 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

B+ #BookReview: A Ruse of Shadows by Sherry Thomas
B #BookReview: Unexploded Remnants by Elaine Gallagher
B #BookReview: Pets and the City by Amy Attas
A+ #BookReview: Ivy, Angelica, Bay by C.L. Polk
B #BookReview: Requiem for a Mouse by Miranda James
Stacking the Shelves (607)

Coming This Week:

Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop
Better Living Through Algorithms by Naomi Kritzer (#BookReview, #HugoReview)
Guard the East Flank by M.L. Buchman (#BookReview)
July 4th 2024 (Guest Post by Galen)
Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (607)

All of the books in this stack will be published in August. I’ve been saving this list for a bit, because, well, August. But I haven’t picked up much this week, so it seemed like a good time to add all of these books – and naturally their covers – to the official stacking.

The two prettiest covers in this batch – at least this time IMHO – are The Singer Sisters and Transgenesis. The books I’m most curious about are Einstein in Kafkaland, because graphic novel, and A Promised Land because the American Revolution is one of those eras that has always fascinated me.

What are your thoughts and what did you add to YOUR stack this week?

For Review:
Einstein in Kafkaland by Ken Krimstein
Eugene Nadelman by Michael Weingrad
Globetrotter by Mark Jacob and Matthew Jacob
Life After Kafka by Magdalena Platzová, translated by Alex Zucker
Once Upon Argentina by Andres Neuman
A Promised Land by Adam Jortner
Simone Weil: A Life in Letters edited by Robert Chenavier and Andre A Devaux
The Singer Sisters by Sarah Seltzer
Tablets Shattered by Joshua Leifer
Transgenesis by Ava Nathaniel Winter
Uncommon Allies by Alan M. Shore

If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below: