The Internet

The eerie coincidences of the Internet

Liked The Internet Thinks We Don’t Know Its Secret. But I Do. by Merritt Tierce (Slate)

What do I mean when I say the internet is reading my mind? I don’t mean simply that it collects my data and observes patterns and interacts with me by reconfiguring that data in ways designed to engage me… I’m also not talking about my awareness that Instagram is listening, that even when my microphone is “off” or my Instagram account disabled, I know other apps are listening, or my phone itself is listening, or such now-standard input-output cross-platform fence-jumping. I’m not even talking about how my phone is “looking” at things I see in the world… At all times, I understand that the internet is using data I somehow gave it, and that those processes and technologies are now too complex for me to track. But it feels aggressive to me, in the way it would feel aggressive if suddenly every kind of advertisement everywhere you went in the world was designed only for you.

On Friday, after my husband got assaulted, we spent hours searching how to wash off pepper spray (and then cleaning up). Finally after he’d taken like five showers we lay down to decompress and watch some TV. I’m bad at working the smart TV so it just randomly turns on on some Samsung channel despite my attempts to leave it on something inoffensive; a billiards tournament came on (something we’ve never watched). He left it going while I got ready, and two ads repeated: for laundry detergent and personal injury lawyers. Logically, we know it was a coincidence, but humans are so good at seeing patterns and causality — and that instinct is reinforced when sometimes it *is* true that the Internet is spying on you.


Read Hotel of Secrets

Read Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller

It’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way – not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.

Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead – a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos – and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.

I liked this overall but it kind of jumped the shark in the last quarter plotwise? I really liked the hero, and appreciated that he was ok with himself loosening up and starting to smile and laugh. The dawning friendship between him and the half brother and the spy was cute — it also hinted at setting up a future book, though since this book didn’t connect to the first that I was aware of, I’m not counting on it. I liked the heroine’s cook friend and her loving half brother, I wish she’d made more progress on asking for and accepting help from her friends and family over the book. I think a better understanding of the end of the Hapsburg empire would have made the subplot more interesting, because even with everything revealed I still wasn’t 100% sure I’d connected the pieces correctly.


Read Honeytrap

Read Honeytrap by Aster Glenn Gray

At the height of the Cold War, a Soviet and an American agent fall in love.

Soviet agent Gennady Matskevich is thrilled when he’s assigned to work with American FBI agent Daniel Hawthorne. There’s just one catch: Gennady’s abusive boss wants him to honeytrap his American partner. Gennady doesn’t want to seduce his new American friend for blackmail purposes… but nonetheless, he can’t stop thinking about kissing Daniel.

FBI agent Daniel Hawthorne is delighted to get to know an agent from the mysterious Soviet Union… and determined not to repeat his past mistake of becoming romantically involved with a coworker. But soon, Daniel finds himself falling for Gennady. Can their love survive their countries’ enmity?

Aster Glenn Gray books tend towards quiet character-driven stories with a tone of melancholy, which is usually the kind of thing that might annoy me, but I have enjoyed all I’ve read.

Part one of this book, where they meet and travel together, was very enjoyable, showcasing their interactions and attitudes. Gennady was a fun character, and Daniel made a good foil as All American. Part two was ok, and I didn’t love part three though it fit.

Romance Science Fiction

Read Saved by the Stryxian

Read Saved by the Stryxian (Stryxian Alien Warriors #2) by Ella Blake

When Brandy Trentler’s wealthy family insists she marry the jerk who cheated on her, she signs up for the Stryxian mate lottery. Who knew her number would be drawn in the first round? Nothing goes right after that—the transport ship is attacked, she is captured by the enemy Morr-ta aliens and thrown in prison.

When a gorgeous Stryxian warrior rescues her, she thinks she’s won freedom and her fated mate, but he has some big, bad secret and apparently, it’s a deal breaker for him. Kando Cardax probably shouldn’t go back into the enemy’s lair to rescue the human female, but he cannot leave her to certain death. He also cannot hide his metal cyborg parts from her forever, especially since with each passing moment, he’s falling in love with her.

Passions flare as the two take refuge in a hidden section of the enemy base, but a discovery that could upend the Morr-ta war makes their odds of survival slim. Kando will do anything to protect Brandy as they fight to flee the enemy base, even if it means revealing himself as a cyborg to save her. All he’s known is fear and aversion to cyborgs like him. Why should he expect Brandy to react any differently? And how will he let her go when he is asked to make the ultimate sacrifice to save both the Stryxian and human species?

The first several chapters of this were glossed over, catching you up on the story, in a somewhat removed tone. Once the hero and heroine were together, it improved. Unfortunately the insta-love was strong, I wish they had spent more time together upfront. The heroine’s character is somewhat reduced to “nice to kids and animals” for the most part. The middle of the book is my favorite part, where he’s getting repaired and she’s left to fend on her own on an alien space station where no one speaks her language. This has less heat than the previous book. I thought the ending was better than the first book, in that they worked together to achieve their goals, and what happened to her even if it strained credulity.

The cover is better on this one than the first book, but did they photoshop his waist skinnier? His ribcage looks so skinny! I like the type for “Styrxian”, kind of video-game-y.

I also read the tie-in novella Stranded with the Styrxian, which was much too short, with a rushed ending.


Read Better Off Wed

Read Better Off Wed (Love and Let Spy, #3) by Susanna Craig

If Miss Laura Hopkins desired a husband, her beauty, brains, and fortune would make it easy to acquire one. Instead, Laura prefers to put her charms to another purpose entirely. Using the alias, Lady Sterling, Laura helps young women who have been mistreated or compromised by their employers. Some might see it as theft and blackmail. For Laura, it is a small measure of justice. But while in pursuit of her latest target, Laura is unexpectedly aided by a gentleman who announces that he is Lord Sterling.

As a spy for the Crown, Captain Jeremy Addison, Viscount Sterling, has been assigned all manner of dangerous missions, though none as complicated as investigating the beguiling Lady Sterling. Forced to pose as newlyweds at the home of a disreputable earl, Laura and Jeremy forge an unexpected alliance…and a passionate connection. But can such a dangerous masquerade possibly lead to a real, lasting love?

Funny and charming and trope-y in a good way. I love a vigilante character, and the unwitting pairing of vigilante with actual spy pretending to be married is a delight.

History Romance

Re-read A Hope Divided

Read A Hope Divided (The Loyal League, #2) by Alyssa Cole

For three years of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother’s traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her–until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie’s home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.

Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.

When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie’s freedom on the line, she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love–and freedom–before they ever cross state lines.

Fourth time reading, first time since 2019, still loved it! Ugh, that cover is gorgeous.

I’d still guess the hero to be autistic, but potentially also have ADHD, which are often co-occurring. He mentions his inability to stop moving several times, his constant nervous energy.

This year provides an interesting context to re-read this story — the hero and heroine are trapped together in a small room, not for quarantine, but for both of their safety from Confederates. Added another layer to my read of their confinement.


Re-read Once Upon a Winter’s Eve

Read Once Upon a Winter’s Eve (Spindle Cove, #1.5)

Some wallflowers bloom at night… A Spindle Cove NovellaViolet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises…

My brain’s a bit NaNo mush already, so re-reads are what I’m feeling 🙂 This is a favorite novella that I first read in 2014 and seem to revisit about once a year. Seemed appropriate for the first day of returning to standard time (aka darkness forever 😡).

Still quite like it, especially for a novella. The language connection is a fun one, used well in the plot and their relationship. Tessa does a good job writing from his perspective without revealing who he is for quite a time.

For being an undercover spy six years older than her, the hero is a bit of a dunce at times, but at least the heroine can then show her stuff?


Re-Read The Spymaster’s Lady

Read The Spymaster’s Lady (Spymasters, #1) by Joanna Bourne

She’s braved battlefields, stolen dispatches, played roles from worldly to naive, lady to boy. But Annique Villiers, elusive spy Fox Cub, is thrown in prison with British spymaster Robert Grey, ordered to enter France and bring her back. Their uneasy alliance holds, but passion builds as they flee.

Third read.

There is a lot about this book that I enjoy, and also a few things that are on the edge of iffy. I think it handles them well for the most part, with the situation between two enemy spies somewhat inherently troublesome. The iffy things are mostly two-sided, so I’ve come down on the side of it’s OK for me. They end up working together, supporting each other, and trusting and valuing the other.

The characters do use a slur for the Rom, but speak respectfully about the culture, and make use of a campsite with appreciation, and the character who lived with them calls them the Rom (though not always).