Monthly Archives: December 2019

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

Mother Knows BestMother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The very clever plot makes up for a few shortcomings on this book. Claire has defective mitochondrial genes and has lost her first child to excruciating genetic disease. Her husband wants to try again. She agrees, but secretly manipulates him and her doctor into experimenting on her, using an egg donor with healthy mitochondria to implant the altered cell that combines her chromosomes with the good mitochondria and produce the world’s first three-parent baby, which in the story violates federal law. The result is Abby, a healthy baby girl. Claire’s husband Ethan, a prominent academic critic of gene manipulation, is unaware that his own daughter is a so-called “frankenbaby.” The egg donor Jill is the doctor’s research assistant, an ambitious and manipulative vixen who is also the doctor’s lover. She considers Abby her experiment to be “monitored.” Claire is forced to flee with Abby. I’ll leave off the plot summary to avoid spoilers, but it gets considerably more complex as the story unfolds.

The characters are a bit simplistic. The genetic details are surprisingly well-done, although a few inaccuracies pop up, mainly for valid plot advancement reasons. For example, in real life, it is not illegal to conduct such experiments on embryos, at least not in federal law. The states may be enacting their own laws on this. I suspect the genetics can be challenging to follow for those unfamiliar with genetic testing and basic reproduction biology, but they play a crucial role in the plot. Having had my own genome sequenced, I am quite familiar with the process and could point out a few other peccadilloes, but all in all, the author does a good job.

View all my reviews

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth KillingThe Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This wicked, twisty murder mystery is the best I’ve read in a long time. I was surprised several times, which is rare for me. The suspense and tempo are just right, not forced and overdone like so many other thrillers. The main characters include two beautiful women, a couple of preppy rich men, a detective, a blue collar guy, and plenty of murder. The settings are Boston and Maine, mostly the latter. It is told from different viewpoints, each chapter by another character. For the most part it is in chronological order although there are a couple of digressions to fill out the characters’ back stories. The writing is well-done – not elegant, but appropriate for the tone of the story. I’d love to tell you more, but I don’t dare give you a spoiler. I’d rather give you a strong recommendation so you can experience it yourself. I will mention that I liked most of the limericks near the end.

View all my reviews

45 Books this Year

Goodreads has a nifty little feature that I enjoy. It provides its members with a list of all the books he or she has read during the year. It also creates a photo montage of the covers. They say I read 45 books over the year. I believe that’s how many reviews or ratings I posted. The reality is that a few of those I never finished or merely skimmed, On the other hand there are probably at least a dozen that I started and didn’t like enough to keep reading, and never posted or rated them, so the number is a loose one. Below is the photo montage reorganized a bit.

Edit: I just finished another book, so make that 46 this year. See my next post.

Beyond the 1000th Meridian by Wallace Stegner

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the WestBeyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West by Wallace Stegner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a biography of John Wesley Powell, a relatively unknown pioneering scientist and naturalist who was immensely important in the exploration and shaping of the western United States. Stegner’s unbridled admiration for Powell damages the historical value of the book as he is unabashedly biased toward Powell’s view of everything. He gives Powell credit for everything good, e.g. correct maps and descriptions, land use policies passed by Congress, pertaining to the region and vilifies all those who opposed him politically or scientifically, especially William Gilpin. Powell might be considered one of the first American environmentalists, but he was also very active in lobbying in Washington and held various positions there and had associations with the Smithsonian Institution and federal departments. Stegner writes well, so I don’t really have any complaints on that score, but I am no history buff so I can’t say I enjoyed the book. I read it only because it’s a selection of my book club. Another factor that turned me off to it is the vituperative descriptions of the politics of the day. We have enough of that going on today.

View all my reviews

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

The Last AstronautThe Last Astronaut by David Wellington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can barely squeeze out two stars on this one. This sci-fi first contact novel features a disgraced woman astronaut who is redrafted by NASA to lead an expedition to a distant object or ship from deep space that is on a course to collide with (or perhaps make close contact with) Earth. The plot resembles a made for Syfy channel late night time filler. None of the characters are remotely plausible. Rao (the doctor/astrobiologist) is a scaredy-cat. The military representative is a nasty, vile-tempered, power-mad alien hater (sound like someone?) Others are no better. In fact the members of the competing team from a private space company are downright evil. They all bicker and disobey orders and generally do just about everything that is stupid and unlikely. The alien(s?) in the object are not … well, no spoilers.

I listened to the audiobook. The very poor reader made the immaturity of the writing even worse. She overacted horribly. Rao’s voice sounded like a timid 10-year-old girl cartoon character. The military guy sneered and scoffed every line, and so on. At times she reminded me of a librarian reading fairy tales to dim four-year-olds.

View all my reviews

New Message Notification From Your “my Social Security” Account

New Message Notification From Your “my Social Security” Account

You elected to receive email notifications when there is a new item in your my Social Security Message Center.  You may log in to your account to view new Message Center items.  Please do not reply to this automatically generated message.  To unsubscribe from future notifications, please log in to your account and update your Message Center notification preferences.

If you just received an email like this, you should probably ignore it. It’s a legitimate notification from Social Security, but you’ll never be able to receive it. I just tried. I clicked the link for my account and tried to sign in. It didn’t accept my password. It never does. I’ve had to get a new password every time I’ve tried to log in. The SSA system is ridiculously inefficient. I think they disable your password after 90 days or something unless you log in again, which, of course, no one does. So after three tries, the following message appears:

If you click the contact us link in the lower right corner you are directed to a page with an 800 number. If you call that you have to sit through a lengthy recorded message. When I finally got to the point where you’re supposed to say “Help Desk,”  I did. The result: a recorded voice that says I will have to hold for one hour forty-five minutes. 1h 45min! Ridiculous. And this is to get a message they could have just sent in the original email. Of course I gave up. I’m not waiting that long. I just found out that my wife got the same message. So I know what the message is. No doubt it is just a notification of what the COLA is for next year. I already know what it is: 1.6%. It’s been announced on the news and a simple web search will tell you. I have no doubt they’ll send the same information in the mail, too. So just ignore the message. This my Social Security is the most useless and unusable computer program ever devised. Your government in action. Blah!