Book Review: A Little Trouble With The Facts

A Little Trouble With The Facts, by Nina Siegal 

This is one of the CD audiobooks I got from my parents, and I popped it in for my commute.

A Little Trouble with the Facts

Valerie Vane was once the IT girl of the lifestyle reporting world in New York City.  But then she had a rather sudden and public fall from grace, right into the obituary department of the newspaper she worked at.  Valerie of course, wasn’t satisfied writing obituaries, but it was the only way to keep her job…

She writes an obit for a has-been graffiti artist, and her fact checking mistake earns her a call from a mysterious man who calls himself Cabeza.  And Cabeza wants her to dive in and find who murdered the artist.

The book is rather cliché, with a number of twists and turns, but it is an easy to read chick-lit murder mystery.  Even though she doesn’t have a full stack of brain cells, you can’t help but want to see Valerie Vane close the case and get herself off of the obit page.

3 stars.  

COVID Diaries: Day 577

Sometimes, I day dream to maintain my sanity.  I think about all the things that I’ll have more time for once I retire.  All the things I want to do, or do again, or see.

Travel: I cannot wait to get back on the road and travel regularly again.  A new job a few years ago, then COVID, and I’m itching to stretch my wings again.  I have so many places on my bucket list!

Reading: Admittedly, I read a lot now.  But there are so many books and so little time!  History, historical fiction, biographies, novels… So many books sitting on my shelves and on my IPod just waiting to be picked up and loved.

Rock-hounding: This is a new pursuit.  I mean, I have always loved rocks, but I have gotten way more interested in the last year. Probably because it’s outdoors, and away from other people.  You can walk gorgeous beaches, or meandering rivers, and see what you find.

Photography: I have enjoyed photography for a long time.  Ever since that day at Yellowstone National Park when I was about six, and my dad told me I could take one photo of anything I want.  I chose an elk carcass.  Yes, that somewhat morbid nature has remained with me.  Yes, I still take photos of carcasses…  But I also take photos of beautiful landscapes and live animals!

Hiking: Getting out and enjoying nature and exercising has been so healing and grounding for me.  I dream of taking new trails and going to new parks.

Puzzles: I have so much fun working on a puzzle!  Enough said.

Family: My job has meant long hours, and sometimes a long commute.  I’ll have more time to spend with family and friends!  Hopefully, coupled with traveling, hiking, rock-hounding and puzzles.

Maybe I’ll pick up some new hobbies too.  I have always wanted to cook better; maybe it will be a time to work on my skills. I would like to do a vegetable garden too!

That day is getting closer all the time…

Circus Trip 2018: National Air and Space Museum

Day 60, Friday, September 14, 2018
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

I had one more day to spend in Washington, D.C. that summer, and I got to spend it at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum!

There are so many cool exhibits there, including the original 1903 Wright Flyer, Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B, a Lunar Lander, a space program reentry pod, TWA jetliners, replica hot air balloons and more!

It is such an awesome museum to spend time in – and I really enjoyed it! 

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 569

It’s finally the weekend once again!  I can’t tell you how much I LIVE for the weekends.

And today is my mom’s birthday.  We went out for lunch to Mexican food.  She didn’t want anything big to celebrate, so we kept it low key.  I’m so grateful that I have a wonderful mom; someone who raised me well and continues to support me everyday.  She is truly a blessing.

Work is, well work.  In strange and wonderful news, one of my direct reports, who resigned about a month ago, decided that the grass isn’t always greener and is coming back next week.  It’s great to not have to train up someone new.  Some things really do work out for the best! 

The news on Yellow is good too!  FINALLY his wound is staying closed!  It has been three weeks since he had his last suture and staple procedure, and the wound is still holding.  A few of the staples have fallen out, but there are five or six that remain.  I sent pictures to his vet yesterday and we are going to give it a few more weeks.  I’m so happy about this! 

Last weekend I did a lot of yardwork and purging inside.  I’m planning to continue that this weekend, in addition to having a Sunday Funday with a girlfriend. 

I continue with my future planning.  I met with my financial advisor a few weeks ago and things are really looking up!  It makes me happy and feel like I have more flexibility with things.  It really is a relief. 

I hope you all are doing well!

Book Review: America’s Hidden History

America’s Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation, by Kenneth C. Davis

You already know that I’m a history nerd.  This book really helps to explore some of the lesser known historic figures in American history.

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The book has several chapters on different time periods in history; between the arrival of the Spanish and the Revolutionary War.  It includes stories about Queen Isabella, who insisted the explorers take pigs along to the New World, which were likely a significant vector of disease.  And George Washington’s pesky little insubordination and war crime in 1754 that led up to the Battle of Fort Necessity. 

The stories about the Revolutionary War were fascinating as well.  We all know about Benedict Arnold and his ultimate betrayal of the Patriot cause during the Revolutionary War.  But did you know about the successes that he achieved prior to his treason?  And did you know about his role after he crossed over to the British Army? He led troops for the British against the Americans. 

I listened to this on audiobook, and my only real gripe was the fact that the last CD of the set was a duplicate of the second to last CD.  Which meant that I didn’t get to hear the end of the book!  I was able to download the corrected version from the library and hear the last portion of the book. I emailed Penguin Randomhouse Audio about replacing the last CD; I hope they are willing to send a correct recording of the last disc! 

 

Book Review: Missing 411: Off the Grid

Missing 411: Off the Grid, by David Paulides

I love these books; he has a whole series of them, and even a movie.  Not because I believe in his quirky Bigfoot, alien abduction theories, but because he compiles details of missing people who have disappeared in wilderness areas.  As I dream of a second career as a successful sleuth, who goes back-country hiking in my free time, I find these cases so interesting.  He combines the details of the case, some of them being decades old, and interesting descriptions of wilderness areas all across the U.S.

Missing 411: Off the Grid

Paulides ties his missing persons cases to a pattern, including the fact that they are mostly men, generally disappear in wilderness areas, disappear in bad weather, and disappear near water.  He also ties his cases to specific hotspots, where a large number of cases crop up over time.  And although I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusions, I do agree that these cases are often puzzling and mysterious.  Of course, there are always going to be some number of missing persons cases that are unusual, and I tend to believe that is why some of these people are never found.  But you can’t deny that some of these cases are downright weird!

Worth the read if you are interested in true crime and missing persons cases.

3 stars.

COVID Diaries: Day 557

I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down to write lately and not been able to find the words.  I’ve been exhausted.  I’ve been discouraged.  I’ve been sad and broken.  I’m trying to keep my spirits up, but I’m just tired of the negativity.  It weighs on me.  A friend said something to me the other day that resonated.  “When God is feeling particularly distant, who moved?”  I think it is fair to say that many in the world have moved.  I plan to move the other way. 

The good news of all that is that I have been working on my contingency plans, so I have more flexibility and peace of mind.  It is a good reminder that we cannot change others’ behavior, but we can change how we react to it.  And yes, I do realize that this a little cryptic, but I’m not able to share specifics at the moment.

I am happy that we finally have a new telecommuting policy, so I get to work from home two days a week.  I got to work from home on Thursday!  My first time since mid-July!  I was off on Friday, but I ended up having to log in and do a couple of hours of work.  Which I wouldn’t have done if I had to go into the office.

There was a gorgeous sunrise here on the first day of fall.  I was just leaving for work that morning and I put a couple things in the garbage can before backing my car out of the garage.  And there it was – in all its spectacular hot pink glory.  It was like God knew that I needed a pick me up and delivered one just for me.  There wasn’t an opportunity to catch a photo, but hopefully there will be more like that soon.

Yellow is healing (and forgiving me) after his latest wound closure procedure.  Another full-sedation surgery to cut the wound along a better line of force and then suture and staple it.  The vet explained that Yellow’s wound is against the natural line that promotes healing, so each time they suture or staple in that direction, it has more resistance when he moves and is more likely to pull open.  Creating a better line of force meant that they could align the sutures and staples on the path of less resistance.  But he got sent home with pain pills and a long acting antibiotic shot.  It can’t have been comfortable.  It is still closed though – fingers crossed!  He hasn’t been doing much photogenic posing lately, but Cora was adorable yesterday morning!

A few weekends ago a pretty nasty windstorm took down a lot of small branches and debris in my yard.  The raking season has returned.  Soon I will be buried in fall leaves and yard work that is impossible to keep up on.  Wish me luck.

That also means that puzzle season is back. So far I’ve done two.  Beer caps and butterflies.  What can I say, I have eclectic interests.  Both puzzles came from a puzzle swap with my aunt, uncle and cousin.  I passed along several that I had already done too. It’s always nice to have a new influx of images!  I had a few moments of weakness at the Goodwill on Friday too, and bought four new puzzles!  Honestly, I try not to buy puzzles and books, because I already have too many, but I couldn’t resist.

 

I need a vacation!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Smithsonian Museum of US History

Day 60, Thursday, September 13, 2018
National Mall, Washington, D.C.

While I was in Washington, D.C., I was able to check out some more of the Smithsonian museums.  I took some time to check out the Museum of US History.  It was so cool! 

I really enjoyed the exhibits there.  I got to see the First Ladies’ gowns, along with Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.  The museum also includes the U.S. flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  It was the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner! 

I also got to visit Winchester; Philip Sheridan’s horse during the Civil War.  It isn’t every day that you see a taxidermied horse!

The furniture that Generals Grant and Lee used to sign the surrender at Appomattox is also included in the collections of the museum.  These unassuming chairs and table played a role in the cessation of hostilities after four years of bloody fighting at the end of the Civil War.  If they could only talk!

I also saw the gunboat Philadelphia, which was used during a battle against the British on Lake Champlain, during the Revolutionary War.  Under the leadership of Benedict Arnold, the Americans fought the British to a standstill in October 1776, but the Philadelphia was sunk.  She was recovered from the bottom of Lake Champlain in 1935, along with the 24 pound ball that sunk her.  It is really neat to see how well preserved she is!  Of course Benedict Arnold later went on to become the country’s most famous traitor, but at the time, he was still well thought of by General Washington and many others in the American command. 

There were a lot of other exhibits, and I spent quite a bit of time checking everything out!  This is a must-see museum!

Book Review: The Greatest Battle

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II, by Andrew Nagorski

I listened to this on audio CD; it was one that I had picked up from a used bookstore several years ago, but hadn’t listened to.  Sadly, when I was about 2/3rds of the way through the book, I realized that the audio book that I had was missing CDs 8 and 9 out of 11.  Unfortunately, I feel like this might have been the best part of the book! 

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II

The Greatest Battle tells the story of Hitler’s assault toward Moscow in the fall of 1941, as well as the Red Army’s attempt to protect the city.  The author began by comparing and contrasting the backgrounds and styles of Hitler and Stalin.  They were obviously both larger than life figures, but they were also men who had significant similarities in their upbringing.  It was interesting to hear the similarities and ponder whether there was something that could be pinpointed to explain why both men came to power and why they were so willing to resort to such incredible cruelty, even towards their own people. 

The author then explains Hitler’s push towards Moscow; he details the circumstances that gave Hitler an advantage, but also the mistakes that were made that ultimately made the campaign unsuccessful.  The Germans got a late start on their assault, and terribly misjudged the effect of the weather on the roads, and the needs of the troops for warm clothes and supplies.  The mud in the fall, and the freezing temperature and snow in winter severely hindered the army’s ability to complete their mission.

Of course, the Red Army has some major issues as well.  The Russian troops were not well equipped, often sharing a rifle among an entire platoon.  Many of their weapons were outdated or lacked ammunition.  And of course, no story about Stalin’s Russia is complete without speaking of the reign of terror that Stalin inflicted on his own people.  Stalin and the NKVD (the precursor to the KGB) often spied on their own people and troops, and severely punished their own people for perceived transgressions.  Stalin literally murdered millions of his own people leading up to and during World War II.  It’s hard to stand up a successful Army when you are assassinating and imprisoning many of your own officers and troops. 

All in all, it was an interesting look into a portion of World War II history that I hadn’t explored much.  I do want to see if I can find a download of the complete book, so I can catch the missing chapters! 

4 stars.  

Book Review: The Paris Vendetta

The Paris Vendetta, by Steve Berry

This was my first book by Steve Berry, who writes secret agent adventure novels. It came from the collection of CD audio books that my mom sent home with me.  And boy was this one ever fast paced!

The Paris Vendetta (Cotton Malone, #5)

Cotton Malone is a retired secret agent for the US Government, who runs a bookshop in Denmark. He is interrupted at home one evening by a young man creeping around his apartment, and when confronted he spins a tale of being followed and being sent by one of Malone’s old friends.  When two men follow and try to kill them, Malone gets tangled up in a new case.  It involves the mysterious Paris Club, a group that is thought to be working to overthrow the world by creating chaos in the world’s financial markets.  Can Malone get to the bottom of this?

The book interestingly touches on the legend of the lost treasure of Napoleon Bonaparte as a side plot.  After Napoleon invaded Russia, he is said to have carted away hundreds of wagon loads of gold, which disappeared.  It has been searched for over the last 200 years, but never found.  Some of the members of the Paris Club have a side deal to find the treasure, which further complicates Malone’s mission. 

The plot of this novel takes the reader all over Europe, to many of the most famous historical sites, including Westminster Abbey, the killing sites of Jack the Ripper, the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, where Napoleon is now buried.

I don’t normally read action/adventure books, but this one kept my interest with its fast pace and historical intrigue.  Which is a good thing, since my Dad had several more books by Steve Berry that I’ll be reading in the future.  And a final note; it was narrated by Scott Brick, one of my favorite audio book readers!

3 stars.