Saturday, June 27, 2015

Irrationally Yours by Dan Ariely

Irrationally Yours: on Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles by Dan Ariely
I subscribe to Dan Ariely's weekly email of answers to questions people send him via the Wall Street Journal. People ask Ariely a variety of questions on topics that involve life, work, and behavior. Ariely, knowing a good opportunity when he sees one, collected the questions and answers into his newest book, Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles. The book is a short, fast, highly entertaining read, and it will definitely getting you thinking about your decisions and behavior.

As an example of a question, someone mentioned that he and his wife were wondering if they should start a family. Ariel's advice was to stay with a family for a week and observe the interactions. Then the couple should offer to watch the kids for a whole week. As Ariely said, if you thought his suggestions were asking too much, maybe you shouldn't have kids of your own. Ariely provides logical, rational insight into the dilemmas and questions that people have. One that particularly caught my attention was the letter from someone who hated his job of eight years and wondered if he should get a new job. Ariely suggested that the person take a long vacation (three weeks) and volunteer at the place that he thought he might like to work. He could then decide if the grass was greener elsewhere. If the guy wasn't interested in trying out the volunteer job, Ariely suggested that maybe the guy's dissatisfaction with the job wasn't that great, and the guy should just stay where he was and stop complaining.

I love to read Ariely's insights into behavior. Since I subscribe to the newsletter, I read (and remembered) the majority of letters. What made the book new and interesting for me were the cartoons by William Haefeli. They did a great job of illustrating, in a comic way, Ariely's feedback. If you haven't read anything by Ariely, you should definitely read this book. It will give you a taste of rational thinking, and it will make you want to read more of Ariely's writing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

The first book in the Sisters Grimm series, The Fairy-Tale Detectives
I enjoy reading a good children's book, and when I heard about The Sisters Grimm series, I knew I would have to check it out. I got the first book in the series from the library, The Fairy-Tale Detectives. Sabrina Grimm, an eleven-year-old, and her sister, Daphne, seven-years-old, are abandoned by their parents. Well, at least, the parents leave the house one day to never return. The girls are bounced around from a variety of crappy foster homes, until they learn that their grandmother has come forward to claim them. The problem is that their father had always told them that their grandmother was dead. The grandmother turns out to be a thoroughly weird character, who makes really weird looking and tasting food. Daphne, of course, loves her new grandmother, but Sabrina distrusts the woman. When weird things start to happen, like a giant footprint that seems to encircle a crushed farm house, Granny Relda explains that they are the family Grimm. The stories told by the Brothers Grimm were true, and the Grimms have gone through life dealing with the problems that the fairy tale characters, called Everafters, cause. Sabrina doesn't believe Granny Relda, and tries to run away. However, Granny Relda is captured by a huge giant right in front of Sabrina's and Daphne's eyes, Sabrina finally believes Granny Relda. Sabrina and Daphne think that Prince Charming, who is Mayor of Ferryport Landing, New York, where Granny Relda and the Everafters live. Granny Relda's friend, Mr. Canis, turns out to be the Big Bad Wolf. Puck and Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk, also make appearances with one being the villain while the other is the hero, and I'm going to leave it to you to read the book to figure out which is which.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives is a entertaining take on the modern fairy tale, and I really enjoyed reading it. There seven other books in the series, and I know that I want to find out what happens to Sabrina and Daphne, and to see if they find their parents, who may have been kidnapped by some Everafters who want the Grimm family dead. If the last Grimm dies, the spell that binds the Everafters to Ferryport Landing will be broken, and the Everafters can be free to roam the world again. Not only will the youngster in your life enjoy the story, but you will too.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Murder at the Smithsonian by Margaret Truman

cover of Murder at the Smithsonian
Who would think that a former president's daughter could write an interesting mystery? Well, I've read that Margaret Truman did just that, although I believe there were rumors that her books had ghost writers. There are so many authors out that that I haven't read, and Truman was one of them. Amazon had some of her books on sale for the Kindle, and I took the opportunity to read Murder at the Smithsonian. It's not the first book that she wrote, but the books aren't series books, so i figured it would be okay to read them out of order. Plus I had a hankering for a mystery set in a museum.

Dr. Lewis Tunney is a friend of the vice president, and it seems he also has some secret information about goings on at the Smithsonian. At a gala at the museum, Tunney winds up getting killed with Jefferson's sword, and at the same time, the Legion of Harsa medal goes missing. The murderer has to be one of the guests at the gala, but who could it be. When Mac Hanrahan investigates, he finds his way blocked by everyone. The Vice President is not being very helpful, and the employees at the museum seem to act pretty suspiciously. When Tunney's fiancee, Heather McBea shows up, the investigation becomes even more cloudy. Heather's uncle was the one who donated the Harsa to the museum. The uncle also supposedly committed suicide, which Heather doesn't believe he would do. Then Heather starts to be the victim of some mysterious doings, such as a mugging, room ransack, and bombing. Can Mac Hanrahan figure out what's going on before Heather turns up dead.

The mystery in the book was a good one. However, I did have a problem with Heather. Every time she has information, that she should have shared with Mac if she really wanted Tunney's murder to be solved, she would keep it to herself. Then she would find herself in a threatening situation, and she would STILL keep her mouth shut. I found myself yelling at the book in frustration because Heather was so stupid and has such a lack of self preservation. I seem to be running into that a lot with mysteries lately, and I had the same complaint about Miss Seeton. I guess it's supposed to add to the suspense, but it doesn't work for me. I will continue to read Truman because I have a few more on my Kindle.