Goodreads Quick Review: Grave Peril

Grave Peril
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third entry into Jim Butcher’s paranormal-fantasy-detective series continues with another fresh entry. Well, this particular story isn’t “fresh” per-say as it deals with undead ghosts and vampires, but you know, good writing and whatnot.

This time around, Harry’s partner in crime Murphy is replaced with the modern templar Michael Carpenter (heh). The stories I heard about Butcher being an avid Dungeons and Dragons player are clearly true. Michael is quite literally a classic Dungeons and Dragons lawful good paladin stuck in modern day America. Place Michael with the agnostic Harry as they battle a supernatural threat, and Butcher can virtually abandon any plans he has for this series and make his own fun version of hit-TV show Supernatural.

There’s also Susan, Harry’s new beau with whom I am sadly forced to dock a star. Chalk it up to a classic case of rushed relationship pacing if you will, but the chemistry between Susan and Harry simply wasn’t up to par with the chemistry between Harry and pretty much every other character. Even two-scene-wonder Thomas, who would have stolen the show in any other book.

In the Harry Dresden universe, assertion is meaningless unless you have the skills to back it up. Perhaps Butcher realized this as well because…well…let’s just say I don’t share Harry’s state of mind at the end of the book. For me it’s more of a “Thank Go-err goodness that’s over with.” (Sorry Michael) Speaking of moving on, Butcher continues subtly laying the groundwork for a grand story arc in what appears to be pretty stand-alone stories at first glance.

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Goodreads Quick Review: Fool Moon

Fool Moon
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Butcher’s second entry in the Dresden Files once again shows promise for a great long-running series. Once again someone is in trouble, but this time around danger comes in the form of werewolves instead of freak meteorology.

Every world-building writer has their own ideas on how fantasy elements like werewolves work. Butcher quickly explains Dresden Files lycanthropy in a concise and well-written info dump courtesy of everyone’s favorite perverted skull while Dresden gets to work. The werewolf angle works well, but I’m really tired of all fantasy writers’ need to make supernatural creatures condescending towards the human race. Humans are stupid, pointlessly violent, and so on…we get it.

I recently stumbled upon an interview in which the first few Dresden Files books came about because Butcher, in getting frustrated with his writing professor, finally broke down and wrote something he considered “boring and formulaic.” While this book is formulaic (a lot more so than Storm Front), it certainly isn’t boring.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Butcher seems content to play along with the formula for now, but the end of story allusion that much deeper threats (and stories) are on the horizon will keep me coming back for more.

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Technical Writing: The 60th Best Job in 2013

Some interesting statistics about the technical writing profession over the last few years. I’m surprised it has slipped so much in the rankings, although there is a lot of competition for jobs requiring technical skills.

Technical Writing ToolBox

Technical Writing is the 60th best job in 2013 Technical Writing is the 60th best job in 2013

Following the yearly tradition, Comcast released  a list of top 200 different jobs in the U.S based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. The data for this report came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies in U.S.

Technical Writer was the 60th best job in 2013 though it slipped 23 ranks as it was the 37th best job in the same survey in 2012, and it slipped 34 ranks as it was the 26th best job in the same survey in 2011. Read the complete list of Careercast 200 tops jobs in 2013 here and the methodology of ranking here.

Technical_Writer_Rank_37_2012

Technical_Writer_Rank_26_2011

Average Salary of a Technical Writer in 2013

Average salary of a technical writer in 2013 is $65,178, up 3% from last year.

Salary_Increase_2013

Work Environment for Technical Writing job

Technical Writing received a score…

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Goodreads Quick Review: Redshirts

Redshirts
Redshirts by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At first glance, Redshirts looks like an obvious parody of the Star Trek red shirts. Specifically, the poor nameless extras whose only purpose is to die horribly at the hands of whatever threat the important crew officers encounter. And…well that’s actually the entire point. Literally.

This book is what happens when the red shirts become self-aware. For as it so happens, the red shirt heroes soon realize that they actually are part of a science fiction TV show narrative that exists in the real world. A not-unlike-Star Trek narrative where the Captain, Science Officer, Lieutenant, and so on always survive the most dangerous of ordeals time and time again while the ensign red shirt are left to perish.

What follows is a hilarious and crazy-awesome adventure whose sheer mind-screwiness plays basketball with the timey-wimey ball of Doctor Who fame. Suffice to say, if you are a Star Trek (original series) fan or a lover of lighthearted science fiction, you will enjoy this book. A few words of literary warning: this book is *extremely* dialogue-heavy. If you like your conversations broken up with consistant action, you may get annoyed as the book moves on.

Bonus points for having a brilliant ending, and I mean “the last two pages” kind of brilliant. Plus, given the overall comedic scope, the final epilogue sequence is inexplicably heartwarming. Grab some tissues beforehand. Scalzi ties everything together, beginning and end and everything beyond, through the skillful words of a veteran writer.

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Goodreads Quick Review: Broken Strings

Broken Strings
Broken Strings by Nancy Means Wright
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Intrepid everyday heroine Fay Hubbard pursues the elusive Skull-Man, out to murder the puppeteer group for performing offbeat endings to popular children’s stories. Every time she gets close to finding the killer out, another twist or murder throws a wrench into the mystery. Hubbard also has three foster children and a beloved goat, but of course she doesn’t mind putting them all at risk while she pursues a ruthless killer with her desire for truth and justice.

In other words, this is your bog standard murder mystery novel. The gimmick here is that puppets are involved! A puppet-sty;e killer *should* make for a (horrifyingly) cool mystery, but the magic of puppeteering is constantly muddled by a diverse, yet unnecessarily large ensemble cast competing for screen time. Wright clearly demonstrates the ability to write complex characters, a key formula in murder mysteries. Unfortunately, there are simply too many character strings attached to the intrepid detective.

I really wanted to like this book, and I saw a lot of great potential with the puppet mystery. But complex characters are not always interesting, and I struggled through to the end hoping for a satisfying twist that never occurred.

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Improving the Add to Cart Button

Last October I posted an infographic detailing the importance of a webstore’s add to cart button. David Max from Perception System recently expanding on the infographic with additional formatting details and statistics for 2014 . Sometimes the smallest details lead to the biggest sales.

Check out the infographic below (Source: Perception System Blog):

Add-To-Cart ButtonCourtesy of Perception System

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#hashtaginsanity

Despite the contractual obligation of my age group to embrace social media, I’m not a big fan of Twitter. Immediacy is nice and all, but Twitter is too fast and too immediate for my tastes. Stop looking at your feed for five minutes and five-hundred posts pass you buy in the blink of an eye.

Despite my annoyance of twittering around, I admit the hashtag feature is nice. The feature is also #heavilyabused and #wronglyused. This article from socialmediatoday sums up my thoughts nicely. Just like any form of communication, if you do not put serious thought into the five w’s then your Tweets will fall on deaf computer monitors.

#andthatsterrible

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