Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Last Human, by Lee Bacon

This is the second book I've read this year with the same title!  The first was The Last Human, by Zach Jordan, which started out really, really strong:  amazing sci-fi world-building and creativity, very interesting characters.  One of the characters was so culturally, mentally, anatomically, and ethically different from humans, yet the author made her very relatable, which is no small feat.  Then the book turned metaphysical and fantastical and kind of lost me (thought others love it, so give it a chance if you feel inclined).    

The Last Human
 by Lee Bacon is a completely different book (and much easier for our tiny little human minds to understand):  a charming middle-grade sci-fi novel that I enjoyed all the way through. 

It was a cute book, by turns funny, touching, and exciting.

I loved the little bits of culture clash, of the robots and humans learning about each other, trying to understand each other, and learning about friendship.

I did find a few things unrealistic, like the sheer number of solar panel the main character and his two coworkers had installed (about 1.3 million, added to an already-large sea of solar panels) while still being able to conveniently walk to work. I also questioned whether any [logical] robot would design another robot to only use emojis. Sometimes his coworkers knew exactly what he meant, inexplicably extrapolating a great deal of info from a couple of little emojis.  Other times they didn't know what he meant at all.  It seemed very imprecise in a very unrobot-like way.  [SPOILER ALERT]  It also felt too easy how the three robots immediately believed and trusted Emma and dropped everything to help her, considering how they've been programmed and brainwashed.  [BIGGER SPOILER ALERT]  The ease of the solution at the end also felt too easy.

That said, there was a lot to like about the book.  The adventure was good.  The writing was engaging.  I loved the characters.

A really fun read.

I look forward to more by Lee Bacon.  

Friday, April 5, 2024

How Can I Help You?, by Laura Sims

I really enjoyed this. 

You can tell the author works in a library, and I loved the details about the job. 

I also thought the characters were very interesting.  Maybe a tad one-note, but that note was very interesting, so it didn't really matter to me.  Seeing a glimpse into the thoughts and needs and motivations of a character like Margo was fascinating.   

The prose was good.

The pacing worked for me, but some people looking for a twisty, edge-of-seat thriller might not like it as much as I did.

I did wonder about the practicalities of a couple of things.  Like how did Margo get a new ID and employment references and such?  Not super important; I was just curious. 

The ending felt rushed, but the very last lines…suitably creepy.

Overall, a great slow-burn psychological thriller with an awesome setting (for library lovers) and an interesting premise and POV.  I will definitely read more by Laura Sims. 

More accurate rating:  4.5

Friday, March 15, 2024

My trial run with backpacking equipment

We car-camped in a campground along the Arizona trail by Colossal Cave (but one night I only used my backpacking gear).  Then in the morning I packed it all up and did a fairly rigorous uphill hike in Saguaro National Park.  

Good news:  I can carry the weight good distances (maybe not thru-hiker distances, but that's another story).  I can carry the weight uphill (which I've also been testing by doing things like hiking up and down Camelback twice and then up and down Piestewa without resting much).  The weight (non-ultra-light as it is) doesn't seem to be much of a problem. 

Bad news:  My pad and sleeping bag aren't good enough for the cold that night (there was frost in the morning on many surfaces, even though it was forecast to be in the mid 40s).  Hopefully the bottom of the Grand Canyon will be warmer when I go.  But I'm going to need to invest in better sleep gear.    

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Colossal Cave, near Tucson, Arizona

Me enjoying the Colossal Cave Ladder Tour.  We got to climb around in the cave, sometimes on cool ladders and catwalks and natural cave surfaces, sometimes on the regular route, once in the dark.  We got to touch certain features (carefully, and with gloves on).  So much fun!  

Here I'm playing music on the stalactites with a rubber spatula.

And in this blurry one, you can see a little of the ledges we got to edge around.  :)  Sorry the pictures weren't better.

Some pretty cave formations:

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

My story, "Palatable Potions," is live on Zombies Need Brains

Zombies Need Brains just published my short story, "Palatable Potions," on Patreon.  The story will also appear in an anthology this summer, available for pre-order here:  https://zombies-need-brains-llc.square.site/ (Look for Zombies Need Brains Presents Year Two)

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Cover Reveal: Samantha Picaro's Recipe for Confidence

 Look at this beautiful cover for Samantha Picaro's latest book, Recipe for Confidence.

To get to know Samantha and her book better, I asked a few questions.  Here are her answers.

Who was your favorite character to write?

My favorite character to write was Lana, Bryn's aunt and owner of the fictional bakery. Lana encourages Bryn to be herself and share her dreams with everyone, especially her parents. Lana has insecurities and has made mistakes but she undeniably loves her niece and Lana doesn't let anyone tell her what to do or how to feel.

Do you yourself bake, like your main character?   If so, what's your favorite thing to bake?

I love to bake, although I admit I like tasting more than baking. I like making Bundt cakes with my mom as well as ricotta cookies.

What do you find most difficult about the writing process?  

The most difficult part of the writing process is adding in new elements of the story (i.e. new character or plot point) as I'm writing the book. Even if it makes the story or characters better, it's still a little frustrating to squeeze it into the plot without making everything unorganized or creating plot holes.

If you'd like to read it, the pre-order price is currently only $1.99 for the e-book!  Click here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Tiny Chuckwalla on Piestewa Peak

Look at this little guy I saw today at Piestewa Peak in Phoenix.  He was the tiniest chuckwalla I've ever seen.  Too young to know that he should be afraid of us, Too young to go do what chuckwallas normally do.  So I got to watch him for a while.

The second chuckwalla I saw today was good at doing what chuckwallas normally do: