Art and Design Science

Read Soviet Space Graphics

Read Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR

This otherworldly collection of Soviet space-race graphics takes readers on a cosmic adventure through Cold War-era Russia. Created against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty, the extraordinary images featured, taken from the period’s hugely successful popular-science magazines, were a vital tool for the promotion of state ideology. Presenting more than 250 illustrations – depicting daring discoveries, scientific innovations, futuristic visions, and extraterrestrial encounters – Soviet Space Graphics unlocks the door to the creative inner workings of the USSR.

I truly appreciate when an art book is primarily art — I’m here to look at the pictures 😉 Love the cover on this. They chose a nice matte paper that complemented the soft style of artwork throughout. I appreciated that they mostly dedicated full pages to each piece. I was drawn by the bright color palettes in use through many of the illustrations. Overall the selection felt relatively limited, representing mostly the same few magazines.

Illustrated by K. Artseulov, 1958

The color palette is striking, the blue nearly glowing against the orange sky. I like the soft, colorful illustration style applied to technology.

Illustrated by V. Skumpe, 1966

The gray-green background scattered with energetic white dashes is what catches my eye here. You’d think it would be too distracting, but it complements the main illustration instead by adding more liveliness. I have fountain pen ink similar to that greeny-blue color, which feels properly retro.


Re-read Unraveled

Read Unraveled by Courtney Milan

He has no use for love…

Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom…

But love has other plans for him.

Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away…

This is my favorite of the Turner books. Smite is so very much himself, not hiding the reactions he has to the traumas of his past, and dedicated and intentional in all that he does. I like how his relationship with Miranda helps him improve his relationship with his brothers and how he opens up to making some changes in how he does and thinks about things.


Read The Duke Gets Even

Read The Duke Gets Even by Joanna Shupe

A rebellious heiress.

A duke in dire straits.

An anonymous midnight tryst.

To escape the shackles of marriage, Nellie Young purposely ruined her reputation a long time ago. Now she dedicates herself to hedonistic pleasures only, like kissing a handsome stranger in the ocean under the moonlight…

To save his estate, the proper Duke of Lockwood must marry the perfect bride–wealthy, with an unblemished reputation. While in New York he’s the perfect gentleman, and no one knows he’s suppressing his darkest desires. The last thing he needs is another scandal.

Except Nellie sees through Lockwood’s charade, straight to the real man underneath. This uptight duke is far more than he lets on, and she can’t resist him. Their secret affair turns scorching, far more than either expected. And when his beautiful rebel finds an unconventional cause, Lockwood has to decide if he’s willing to sacrifice everything to keep her.

I didn’t read the previous books in the series, and could follow along, but the other women figure strongly and I suspect both characters in this book have some good character build up in the previous books.

Giving the Duke a heart condition added an interesting element since so many romance endings are about settling into a long happy forever, while in this both know their time may be limited.

I liked Eleanor’s advocacy for women’s rights and wish it weren’t so timely 120 years later 😒

Some of the pacing towards the beginning felt a mite slow, though it helped that the book started with a racy swimming scene so you knew they had chemistry if they could get over themselves.

I expected a different ending but liked the actual ending better than my guess.

Getting Shit Done Lifestyle Self Care

Read How to Calm Your Mind

Read How to Calm Your Mind by Chris Bailey

How to Calm Your Mind is a treasure trove of practical, science-backed strategies that reveal how the key to a less anxious life, and even greater productivity, is a calm state of mind.

I took my time reading this over the past three months to let it really soak in. It’s great and totally aligns with my own shift in thinking over the years.

I’ve followed Bailey’s work for many years, and enjoyed his previous two books, but also struggled with anxiety, stress and burnout. Culturally it feels like many Millennials are going through this transition at the same pace, throwing ourselves into work and burning out through our twenties, then rethinking priorities in our thirties and recognizing the societal factors pushing us to work so hard and yet ineffectively. We see decades of our careers remaining ahead of us and are acknowledging that we can’t keep brute forcing ourselves till we’re eighty.

I appreciate this comprehensive recentering of the value and importance of rest and calm to let us live the lives we want to. Stress and anxiety have physical consequences to the way our bodies and minds function, and make it harder to be intentional. He covers the scientific backing behind burnout and stress as well as offering a whole host of practical steps to try calming your body and mind, while reminding readers not to overdo it by trying to change everything at once. Even as someone who’s practiced meditation and mindful breathing and such, I found new ideas.

I appreciated the deeper grounding in root causes, especially the framing of looking at activities in terms of stimulation. I was reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr at the same time as this,  which provided a perfect complement of messages on the impacts of digital spaces and the value of analog. I don’t 100% agree with Bailey — like his assertion that hanging out virtually “doesn’t count” as social time — but overall agree that I’d like to use my digital devices less and more thoughtfully, and replace digital with analog where viable.

Romance Science Fiction

Read Alien Mercenary’s Destiny

Read Alien Mercenary’s Destiny

He saved her from certain death. She didn’t count on him being a… nerd.

A Tarviisan pit fighter forced to fight for survival her entire life, Zadaenae is sure she’s about to breathe her last when she’s cornered during a breakout. But help comes from an unexpected quarter; an alien with the infamous Warborne Mercenary team. Only her savior isn’t an experienced mercenary, he’s a scientist without a clue about fighting…

Wracked with guilt over his injuries saving her, she takes a hire with the Warborne to stick around, even though the last thing she needs is the scarily intelligent, utterly fascinating human finding out her deepest, darkest secret…

He nearly died. Then he became something else. Something… not human.

Dr. Eric Archer has all the smarts he’s ever needed, but multiple degrees don’t mean anything on the alien mercenary vessel, Sprite. Instead of working in a lab, he’s had a crash course in battlefield tactics, field stripping alien rifles, and shooting just to stay alive and earn his place among the lethal aliens.

She’s an alien. And a princess. He needs to up his game to have any chance…

When rescuing a beautiful damsel in distress almost kills him, an experimental alien treatment saves his life. And makes him more than human. Makes him something… else. Forced to deal with more new muscles than he knows what to do with, plus hormones and instincts no human has ever encountered before, Eric must navigate his new abilities and prove to alien princess Zadaenae he’s the only man she’ll ever need.

But he’s not the only one with eyes on his beautiful alien princess. She’s someone else’s means to an end, and this scientist must use everything at his disposal: new skills and old alike to try and save the woman he loves…

Eric goes through basically a superhero transformation which also changes his character. It seemed weird that he, his sister, and the crew all accepted his change in personality without question. I felt the all-is-lost split between them relied on an out of character reaction. The ending left a couple things dangling IMO.

Comics History

Read A Bride’s Story 13

Read A Bride’s Story 13

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori’s tale of life on the nineteenth century Silk Road continues. Mr. Smith keeps on his journey retracing his steps, stopping next at a seaside village where he is greeted by a pair of enthusiastic young brides! Laila and Leily are eager to prove themselves as capable hostesses, but failing in the attempt could have serious social consequences. As the twins scramble in the kitchen, the discussion around the table turns to recent rumors of danger in the region. Mr. Smith now faces a difficult decision—turn back, or risk pressing on to his final stop?

Crafted in painstaking detail, Ms. Mori’s pen breathes life into the scenery and architecture of the period in this heart-warming, slice-of-life tale that is at once wholly exotic, yet familiar and accessible through the everyday lives of the characters she has created.

This was an enjoyable volume. I love Talas and was happy she got some feature moments in this volume. The twins are still mildly annoying but a little endearing in their earnest enthusiasm. I liked a bit more attention given to Ali and the bodyguard Mr. Nikolovski, who reveals a soft spot for kids.

Been a while since I read the previous volume: Read A Bride’s Story 12

Art and Design

Read Soviet Seasons

Read Soviet Seasons

In Soviet Seasons, Arseniy Kotov reveals unfamiliar aspects of the post-Soviet terrain in sublime photographs. From snow-blanketed Siberia in winter to the mountains of the Caucasus in summer, these images show how a once powerful, utopian landscape has been affected by the weight of nature itself.

Loved the photography, learned a lot from the detailed descriptions of each photo. I liked the organization into seasons — winter and fall were my favorites. Fantastic collection.

More photos at his website.

Technology The Internet

Read The Shallows

Read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Nicholas Carr’s bestseller The Shallows has become a foundational book in one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the internet’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? This 10th-anniversary edition includes a new afterword that brings the story up to date, with a deep examination of the cognitive and behavioral effects of smartphones and social media.

I didn’t expect a tech book more than ten years old to feel so relevant. There are a few dated passages, but on the whole it’s very aligned with our technological path, even if we’re a bit farther along. I’d say there’s a little too much detail on brain science, but overall this feels invaluable. I’m very glad to have read it.

I read the 10th anniversary edition and appreciated the new afterword.

Fantasy Romance

Read The Wolf and the Wallflower

Read The Wolf and the Wallflower (Wolves of the Ton #1)

Lord Jasper Thorne is the most eligible bachelor of the season, but he chafes against the expectation to marry a suitable lady and forge a strong alliance for his pack. Acting polite and proper at balls makes him want to take his wolf form and flee into the woods. Then he meets shy wallflower Ambrose and suddenly social events are much more tolerable.

Ambrose Linfield is hopelessly smitten the moment he meets handsome, charming Jasper. They discuss books they aren’t supposed to be reading, chat with each other at balls when Jasper should be dancing with ladies, even shift together under the full moon.

When Ambrose takes a bold chance and Jasper discovers the truth of his own feelings, everything changes. Secret kisses and stolen moments consume them, but the end of the season draws closer. Soon Jasper will have to do his duty, unless both of them are willing to defy their parents, their packs, and all of society.

This was cute, I’d read another from the series. It was pretty light and relatively low angst till the ending, so perhaps could have been a bit shorter since a lot of the scenes were similar, at balls or at the club. I liked the wolf culture but wished it could have been delved into deeper, especially how wolves and humans fit together.

Fantasy Romance

Read Always Practice Safe Hex

Read Always Practice Safe Hex (Stay a Spell, #4)

Livvy Savoie is a people person. Not only does she have the magical gift of persuasion, but her natural charisma charms everyone she meets. She hasn’t met a person she didn’t like. Until her annoyingly brilliant competitor walks through the door. No matter how hard she denies it, loathing isn’t the only emotion she feels for him.

Grim reaper Gareth Blackwater is rarely, if ever, moved beyond his broody, stoic state. But the witch he’s partnered with in the public relations contest is destroying his peace of mind. He’s convinced that the flesh-melting attraction he feels for her is merely her witchy magic at work.

But forced proximity proves there is more than magic sparking between them. Livvy learns this enigmatic grim’s abilities are beyond any supernatural she has ever known. And when Livvy becomes the obsessive target of a dangerous wizard, Gareth proves just how powerful he truly is. Because no one is going to hurt his Lavinia.

I enjoyed this overall, though felt the heroine didn’t get a lot of time to shine and had some qualms about some story elements. I disliked the subplot with the bad guy, especially the climax which was really cruddy all round for the heroine (an understatement). I never like when the climax plot relies on <spoiler>the hero rescuing the heroine from a sexual assault</spoiler>.