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Sandra McDonald
love, duty and really big spaceships
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Book 82: Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer.
Author: Katie Alender, 2013.
Genre: Young Adult. Mystery. Romance. Serial Killer.
Other Details: Paperback. 301 pages.

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots. But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . . - synopsis from author's website.

I fancied something non-demanding to read one afternoon this week and this fit the bill. It turned out to be pretty much what I expected from the title, a rather fluffy story of a young American girl in Paris dealing with a vengeful ghost and discovering along the way important lessons about being true to yourself and the value of friendship.

Colette starts as something of a 'Heather'; she is trying to fit into a Mean Girl clique with mixed results. Yet the other two girls are so self-absorbed that they don't realise that Colette's circumstances have changed since her parents' divorce and so she's always on thin ice around them. I was perplexed as to why she was even bothering. There were a few unsettling scenes if you suffer from claustrophobia but the murders themselves are pretty tame.

The police in Paris seemed very laid back about the investigation into this bizarre series of murders though as the story is from Colette's point of view and she speaks little French (despite being there on a French class field trip) maybe this can be presumed to be taking place elsewhere. Still, even royal ghosts don't usually have the ability to run about cutting off heads and Marie Antoinette came off as less than one-dimensional, even if a ghost. Still it wasn't a novel that I was going to take at all seriously and while I wished that it had turned out to be a meatier murder mystery, with or without a supernatural element, my investment in it was minimal.

Cross-posted to 50bookchallenge.

In coming years, the first truly Earth-like planets will be discovered orbiting other stars, and the search for signs of life on these worlds will begin. However, such observations will be hugely time-consuming and costly, and so it will be important to determine which of those planets represent the best prospects for life elsewhere. One of the key factors in such a decision will be the climate variability of the planet in question - too chaotic a climate might render a planet less promising as a target for our initial search for life elsewhere.
On the Earth, the climate of the last few million years has been dominated by a series of glacial and interglacial periods, driven by periodic variations in the Earth's orbital elements and axial tilt. These Milankovitch cycles are driven by the gravitational influence of the other planets, and as such are strongly dependent on the architecture of the Solar system.
Here, we present the first results of a study investigating the influence of the orbit of Jupiter on the Milankovitch cycles at Earth - a first step in developing a means to characterise the nature of periodic climate change on planets beyond our Solar system.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
19th-Apr-2014 08:42 am - My grandfather has died.
The last picture with my grandfather, in the days after my wedding. He is on the far right of this photo.

My poor papou has died. He was maternal step-grandfather, but was a blood relation paternally; he was my father's uncle. Nick Vroutos was a great man. When he married my grandmother, he became father to her four young children, including my mother, which was an unusual thing to do back then, especially in the Greek immigrant community.

When I young, he was the maître d’hôtel at the legendary Elk Hotel Restaurant in Port Jefferson, working shifts day and night in a light blue suit jacket. The other waiters all wore yellow jackets. As a little nerd I always thought this should be reversed; the captain should wear yellow, as in Star Trek, and his underlings blue. After the decline of the Elks--half of it is now a Starbucks and half something else--he went on to operate a number of smaller places on Long Island and in Florida.

Papou was the ultimate cool customer, which was also unusual among my relatives. At least to me he always seemed easygoing, skillful with people of all sorts, always ready with a smile or a smirk. Handsome too. A photo of him as a young man hung on the wall of my grandmother's house. He looked just like Desi Arnaz. I even asked my yiayia once why she had a picture of "Ricky Ricardo" with the family pictures. When I was a kid, he quit smoking by using an ingenious method: he just wouldn't light his cigarettes. Lots of smokers complain of not knowing what to do with their hands when they try to quit, and they miss other little social practices associated with the filthy habit, but he found a way around it.

In recent years I saw him less. He was in FL, and selflessly stayed which my grandmother as she continues her decline into dementia. (Long-time readers may remember this story
--my grandmother was hiding at a neighbor's house a few doors down.) Today was their fifty-second wedding anniversary. He was healthy enough to occasionally scale the roof of his home and do repairs well into his 70s, though he did suffer from diabetes.

Last month, he had damaged his foot thanks to failing nerve endings, but was taken care of in the hospital. A few days later though, he was back, with pneumonia in one lung. He spent time in the ICU. We we're all worried, of course, but if we all rushed down there he might have thought he was dying. He needed dialysis to go with his pneumonia treatment as his kidneys were weak, but he was soon transferred to an ordinary hospital room. I decided that I would have to go to Florida this summer, so he could see my baby, photos of whom he enjoyed so much. Then he was released to start rehab, just yesterday. But last night he experienced a stomachache, his blood sugar changed, he passed out and then woke back up, and he was brought to the ER, where he did not recover. So he did not meet Oliver and I will not see my papou again in this world.
19th-Apr-2014 10:02 am - Arcfinity f/m
Issue   T   F    M    Mu   F/T
1.1    15   2   13         .13
1.2    14   3   10     1   .21
1.3    13   2   11         .15
1.4    13   4    9         .31   
2.1     ?   ?    ?     ?    ?

I am sure the TOC for 2.1 must be on their webstie somewhere but I ran out of patience looking for it.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
19th-Apr-2014 06:23 am - The Goblin Emperor . . .
. . . and the female gaze. Why does this book work so well for me? Here is one possible idea.

If you've got a few minutes, please come and discuss--I really want to see how others perceive both this book and the female gaze!
19th-Apr-2014 09:07 am - Odd but interesting

Hokkyoku Nigo is part of a small subset in Japan with a fetish for wearing outfits called “zentai” — an abbreviation of “zenshintaitsu”, which means “full body suit” — who say they are seeking liberation by effacing the physical self.

Image is a link.

Read more...Collapse )

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
19th-Apr-2014 07:00 am - Logging Off, Editing with Ernest

I'm taking the weekend off to celebrate the holiday and be with my family and not be on the internet as much as possible. Selfish of me, I know, but I can get that way sometimes. Comments moderation will likely be slow and/or backed up as a result. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, let me share some info on an online editing tool:

You can get immediate editing help for anything you write online via the desktop version of HemingwayApp, which allows you to type in (or cut-n-paste) text and then have the app edit it (first you have to highlight and delete the instructions, btw.) Here's a screenshot to explain more details:

And the text version of the same:

Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear.

Hemingway highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow highlight, shorten the sentence or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.

Adverbs are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick verbs with force instead.

You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over it for hints.

Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.

Paste in something you're working on and edit away. Or, click the Write button to compose something new.

I tested it with a random passage from one of my novels, and here is a screenshot of the results. It flagged me on the only two adverbs I used -- I don't loathe adverbs like some writers, so having them in the text okay with me -- and gave me a green light on everything else. I should write worse.

You can use this online tool to edit fiction, blog posts, e-mails, or basically anything you write, and it may see something you don't, so check it out when you have a chance.
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