Keeping a low profile

Hi.  Sorry.  Still here, just fighting a cold or maybe allergies or whatever.  It comes and goes, but it’s enough to keep me off my computer once work is over.  Mostly.  Today, Mindy sent me a delightful Martin and Lewis video neither of us had ever seen, and the latest story arc on Agents of SHIELD is the best since they tied in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and my third library book (the vampire one) was WAY better than the two before, so I’ve been pretty well entertained the last couple of otherwise miserable days.  (Seriously – yesterday was a 3-crisis, 10-hour workday, on top of feeling crappy.  I haven’t had a work day that stressful since I took the new position last fall.  Not fun.)

Anyway, I’m going to bed with my new book and hopes of less congestion tomorrow.

Some bad book choices

I’m in a mood.  A reading mood, but it’s not the kind of mood that only means I want to read.  This is the kind of mood that means I’m hyper-critical of what I’m reading.  I picked up three books from the library yesterday, all books that had been recommended to me or that had appealed to me on some trip to a bookstore or something.

I put the first one down after 24 pages.   All of the exposition was in dialogue between a brother and a sister, and it was SO. PAINFUL.  They clearly both remembered a thing that happened, but they had to talk through every detail in a way real people would NEVER DO.  It’s like this radio commercial I HATED in Virginia for Warman Home Care (you know, like warm and caring? UGH) where a wife says to her husband, “you know how you’re worried about your dad getting older and living by himself and how he won’t be able to take care of himself but how we can’t do it either?” and every time I heard it, I cringed because NO ONE HAS THAT CONVERSATION!  People use shorthand!  They refer to conversations they’ve had before without going into every detail.  Good writing would remember that and use references like clues to pull the reader in.  This book was like that commercial and it was so irritating.  And then the author tried REALLY HARD to make sure you knew how old the characters are now and were then.  On one page, he said straight out that one character was 33, the sister was two years younger than that character, and the brother was three years older.  Got it.  Okay.  A few pages later, the narration explicitly says that a certain event happened 23 years previously.  At that point, I did the math – brother was 13, sister was 8.  I’m with you.  Then, at the bottom of the SAME PAGE, the brother asks the sister, “so, how old were we when that happened?” and she says, “well, I was 8, so you must have been 13.” OH MY GOD I GET IT.

I quit after that.

I picked up my next book right after that and nearly put it down after seven sentences.  The main character, making dinner at home with his family, was julienning an onion.  The pretentiousness oozed off the page.  Are you a chef?  No.  Is this book about food or cooking?  No.  THEN YOU’RE CHOPPING THAT GODDAMN ONION.  On the next page, we learn he lives in a brownstone.  A page later, we learn that he’s going to his local bar, steps away from his brownstone.  Then he goes to Whole Foods with his canvas bag, which is just blocks away from his brownstone.  Guess what, guys?  Mr. Perfect lives in a brownstone.  I’m kind of glad he got kidnapped.

For reasons, I don’t understand, I’m still reading this book.  I’ll finish it tonight, and I can move on to a book where the Queen is a vampire.  I’m expecting better from the paranormal.

Quick to judge

Here’s the thing I don’t like about my book club: I think they’re book snobs.

There are at least two people who like science fiction, but not many more than that.  And I can understand not liking it (well, I can’t, but I’m not going to give anyone a hard time about it), but that doesn’t mean you should look down your nose at it.  They read The Martian sometime last year, and that has become their go-to joke when they need an example of a science fiction book they all hated.  Really?  The Martian?  That book was more science than fiction.  If you want an example of bad science fiction, I can help you out, but The Martian ain’t it.

They’re not completely against light fiction.  Most of the group liked The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which is pretty light, but even then, a couple of them dismissed it as candy.  Our next book is by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is a necessary antidote to The Sympathizer, but I expect half the group to think it’s twaddle, too.

Of COURSE not everyone in the group is going to like each book, but you can dislike something without dismissing an entire genre as beneath your notice.  At the end of the last meeting, someone suggested we go around the table and say what we’re reading now, and I didn’t want to.  I’m reading science fiction, and I didn’t want to have to deal with their judgment*.  That is not a nice feeling.

I need to find (or start) an SFF book club.  I guess it’ll have to wait until we stop moving.  It would suck to start one up and then move away.

*Can someone explain to me WHY “judgment” is more correct than “judgement”?  It looks SO WRONG.

I probably could have stopped reading it

Some days something happens, and I can sit down and write about it.  Other days, maybe nothing happens, but I’m thinking about something, and I can sit down and write about it.  Today, I started writing about something, decided it was stupid or boring, and deleted it.  Then I did it again, but about something else.  And then I did it again, but about a third thing.  Considering what I do decide to post most days, that should tell you just how stupid or boring those three different things were.

So what have I got for you?  Well, I finished The Sympathizer, finally.  It only took a week, but it felt like an eternity.  That’s not to say it wasn’t good…  Tonight was book club night, and everyone had pretty much the same reaction except for a few people who LOVED it and one person who put it down after 30 pages and refused to finish it.

So far I don’t love my current book, but at least it has a plot.

That might be all I have for you.

Challenge

I went to the library today, and now I have six books to read in three weeks.  Can I do it?

Don’t be ridiculous.  Of course I can do it.  Have you met me?  I can do that with both hands tied behind my back.

Read like the wind

I saw a flyer today for a book club called Eugene Book Talk that meets once a month.  The flyer was old (the books were for October and November), but I’ve read one of them (The Snow Child) and liked it, so that’s a good sign.  On impulse, I emailed them right then and there, and the person running the account (no name except for the name of the book club) responded right away. S/He said they’re still active, and since they couldn’t meet in December, they’re meeting this Tuesday to discuss The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

I looked it up, downloaded the sample, enjoyed the first couple of pages, and now I have a mission.  I put aside the book I’m in the middle of (again – I put it aside for Temeraire book 8 when the library e-book became available), and now I have 49.5 hours (from right now) to read the whole thing.

It’s a good thing I don’t have to work tomorrow.  If it’s interesting enough, I think I’ll make it.  THEN we’ll see how I feel about joining a book club again.

Robin McKinley’s blog takes work to read and I love it

I love Robin McKinley.  I’ve read 90% of what she’s written, and the only book I didn’t love without reservation was Sherwood, her take on Robin Hood.  Mostly, she writes her own versions of fairy tales (she’s written two very different versions of Beauty and the Beast) and folk tales, but she’s written non-fairy tale books (still fantasy) and short stories and it’s all so good!

Then I found out she has a blog!  How wonderful!  And…it is, but I’m pretty sure I only think so because I already love her.  For someone who likes her okay or is more indifferent than that, I think the way she formats her blog posts would come across less whimsically challenging and more hell-no-what-a-pain-in-the-ass-I’m-not-reading-this. Of course, that person probably wouldn’t be interested in her blog regardless of her footnote formatting, so it doesn’t really matter.

See for yourself.  Footnotes within footnotes within footnotes.  Because I love her already, and I like puzzles, and I like footnotes, I think it’s great.  And I get sentences like “There are some vaguely luminescent white stripes in approximately the area where you might have expected a tab, but these are a snare and a delusion.” in a funny post about trying to open a package.

I need to find a way to work “but these are a snare and a delusion” into normal conversations.

Faulty memory

John and I started watching The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime) a few days ago.  We got hooked fast, and we basically binged it all weekend.  We started Season 2 today.

The thing is, I know I read the book, and I know I didn’t particularly like it (I’ve felt that way about every Philip K. Dick book I’ve read), but I don’t remember enough about the plot to have any idea just how much the TV show differs from the book.  I imagine it’s quite a bit different, but in what ways?  I have no idea.  And now that we’re hooked on the show, I don’t want to re-read the book (or even google a plot summary) because I want to avoid spoilers.

Maybe I do read too fast (as I have been accused).  Or maybe I just don’t remember details of books I don’t love.  Of course, since I’m so spoiler-conscious, maybe it’s just as well I don’t remember the book much.

In case there was any doubt about how I prefer to spend my time

End of the year musings?  Sure, let’s be like everyone else.

There are plenty of reasons to call 2016 the worst year in recent history (TRUMP and the untimely deaths of Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, George Michael, Anton Yelchin, and so on), but personally it wasn’t so bad.  It feels like forever ago, but we moved to OR in 2016, John got his rec pilot’s license, he’s in a band, I’m riding, Emily had a baby, Corey and Christine got engaged, and I got a new job (same company) that lowered my work stress by 50% at least.

I discovered Temeraire and Captain Laurence and time-traveling historians and the Others and a ton of other new books and series to love and…WOW.  Well, I have to declare 2016 a good year for me, despite the rest of the world, because I read nearly twice as many books this year as I did last year and four times as many as I read in 2013.  (There are advantages to keeping a book list.)  Yay for more reading time!

The nothing at the end of the week

The last two days have been…something.  Some good (I’m running more than 4 miles again – YAY – and I’m done with physical therapy – DOUBLE YAY), some sucky (my nose hurts and work has been super-stressful).

It’s Friday, and I’m going to make pasta for dinner and have a glass of wine and try to make this weekend last longer than its sad two little days.  Maybe we’ll do something festive.

I can’t make my brain do much right now.  I’m hungry and easily distracted, and John is playing the blues down the hall.  It’s great, but I keep stopping to listen and when I focus on the screen again, whatever scraps of coherent thought I had (if I had any – who can tell?) are gone.

The news is all bad.  I think I’ll go read about some dragons.

What I learned over Thanksgiving break

New things I like (and one thing I didn’t like):

  • New fun podcast!  Check out The Orbiting Human Circus.  It’s odd (it’s about a radio variety show performed in the ballroom at the top of the Eiffel Tower with a janitor who has a narrator in his head and just wants to be on the stage!), but not supernatural or science fiction-y in any way.  Mandy Patinkin is involved.  Try it.
  • I read the first book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series and it made me very happy.  It’s unashamedly Jane Austen-esque but with magic!  Ladylike magic.  Magic is just one of the arts ladies become accomplished in, like singing or drawing or playing the piano.  (I really liked it.)
  • I also read The Apartment, and I definitely do NOT recommend it.  It wasn’t awful, and it was a bit creepy (you already know I scare easy), but it was paced badly, nothing was explained, and the ending wasn’t satisfying.  If you were thinking about it, don’t bother.  At least it was a library book so I didn’t spend any money on it.
  • Pie is good.  Apple pie with ice cream is better.  (I’m including this because I like re-learning it every Thanksgiving.  Continuing education is important.)

Winning the book lottery

I’ve been on a roll lately, book-wise.  I have liked every book I’ve read in the past three weeks (ever since giving up on The Lake House).  Some of that was planned: two of the seven books were sequels, so it was pretty much a given that I would like them.  One (Word Puppets) is a collection of short stories by an author I’ve heard a lot about but had never tried.  Her short stories were really good (yay!), so I’ll be reading more of her.  The next book (Serpentine) was recommended by a couple of the authors I follow on Twitter – young adult, fantasy/Chinese mythology – very good.  I found the other three just browsing in Powell’s.  It’s riskier than going on recommendations, but one of those turned out to be pretty good (The Girl With All The Gifts), and the other two are why I’m writing this post because they were SO FREAKIN’ GOOD.

Illuminae is told through documentation found by a researcher trying to piece together what actually happened out in space after a planet was attacked, so the format is all letters, emails, chats, transcripts of videos, interviews, etc.  It was funny and it totally captured my imagination.  I didn’t want to put it down, and when I had to, I was thinking about it.

Then I read His Majesty’s Dragon, and – THANK EVERYTHING – it is the first in a nine-book series.  It’s set in pseudo-1800s Britain, with the British Navy and a war with Napoleon and DRAGONS.  The dragons and their riders (!) make up the air force, basically, and it’s like a mash-up of the Patrick O’Brien novels and the Pern novels (!!), and it makes me very happy.  Like, the-world-is-a-better-place-with-these-books-in-it kind of happy.

I started the second book in the series last night.  I’m so happy.

I brought it on myself

As you know, I loved The Silvered, and I was worried about my next book because of it.  So either I was right to be worried about that, or I talked myself right into not enjoying my next TWO books.  First, I picked up The Scorch Trials, which is the sequel to The Maze Runner.  The first book was fine, but this one had no real plot, which drives me crazy.  I got about halfway, told John I was going to put it down, and then finished it two hours later.  It was a quick read, but not especially enjoyable.  I might watch the movies.

Then I picked up The Lake House.  I had my doubts before I started it because her other four books are all very similar.  The structure is basically identical, although the details are different.  I’ve enjoyed all four, to a certain extent, but when I picked up this fifth one, I felt tired.  Oh, look, there’s a mystery in the past.  Oh, look, there’s a person in the present having problems.  Oh, look, this person in the present is going to mixed up in figuring out what happened in the past and somehow solve that mystery AND their own problems.  I gave up on it pretty quickly.  I’m sorry, Kate Morton.  I thought The Secret Keeper was really good, and I’m happy the book club chose to read it while I was a member.  That’s as far as I can go.

Thankfully, it only took two books to get me out of that very unpleasant hole.  I started a collection of short stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, and those have been really good so far.

I’ve decided it was the books, not me.  I chose badly twice in a row.  It’s still my fault (I chose the books), but it’s less obnoxious than blaming it on my mood.

Some books should never end

I have already declared my love of Tanya Huff (space marines!) in this space, but I think I need to say it again.  I just finished a stand-alone fantasy novel that I really really really enjoyed.  Like, I didn’t want it to be over.  I want more of it.  I want it to be a series, Ms. Tanya Huff, please ma’am.  It reminded me of Sherwood Smith’s Inda books, a fantasy series (ahem) I also liked a ton.  The Inda books take place in a world I don’t want to leave when the books end.  The characters stay with me, and now I’m feeling the same way about The Silvered.  It’s about mages and a version of werewolves, and yes, Mom and Margaret have both just lost interest, but I couldn’t put it down even as I wished I could slow down and never finish it.

Now, sadly, it’s over (I stayed up late last night to get to the end), and I’m putting off starting another book because I’m not ready.  My next book is going to be a disappointment, through no fault of its own (I hope), and that’s not fair to it.

I wouldn’t mind living in Stars Hollow

I’d like to start by assuring you all that we did NOT watch anything scary Friday night, unless you consider Gilmore Girls scary.  Christina loves that show, and I had never seen it, so we started it from the beginning and watched five episodes before getting sleepy enough to quit for the night.  I like it, enough that I watched three more episodes this afternoon.

It’s funny – it’s somehow both exactly what I expected and not at all what I expected, and I am so far kind of surprised that it did as well as it did.  It’s not bad, I don’t mean that.  It’s just not a sweeping drama or a comedy or anything big.  It’s quiet, and it’s kind of funny, and Lorelai Gilmore is occasionally irritating (but I expected that because that’s mostly how I feel about Lauren Graham), and it’s hilarious to see Sam Winchester in baby form with his brother’s name.  And the town is ridiculously cute.

Anyway, my weekend has been at 30% Gilmore Girls, and that’s okay.  It’s been raining off and on all day today – perfect weather for watching some light TV and finishing my book.  Oh, I didn’t really like my book (Girls On Fire).  Too much over the top teenage drama: violent, emotionally charged, and trying to be realistic but carrying the plot points too far so that I couldn’t just treat it like a thriller and go along for the ride.  I’m glad it’s done, and my next book will be a silly novel about a woman on her 20s who protects the not-really-harmful monsters in NYC from humanity and sometimes has to protect NYC from the actually-harmful monsters.  Much more fun.

Not my kind of OM

I am still in the market for a yoga class because last night’s class was not for me.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t terribly challenging, and this is coming from someone who hasn’t been to a yoga class in at LEAST a year and a half.  It wasn’t that relaxing, either.  They did actually say “om”, though.  That’s a first for me.

The gym offers a couple of different yoga classes, so I’ll try one of those soon.  Until then, I’ll ponder the mystery of the font color of my current book.  It’s BLUE.  Aside from kid’s books, I can’t remember ever seeing a printed book with text any color other than black.  It’s weird.

Portland!

We had about three hours to kill in Portland before the Night Vale show Thursday night, so we did pretty much what you’d expect of us:

  1. We did a quick tour of the downtown library.
  2. We spent about 45 minutes in Powell’s.
  3. We had dinner.

The library is pretty impressive-looking from the outside, and the lobby is lovely.  It has a big sweeping staircase, and the steps to the second floor are (or at least look like) black marble etched with animals and lots of swirling patterns.  Very cool.

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I think these windows were in non-fiction room.  Huge, lots of light, trees outside – beautiful and peaceful.

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The children’s library is named after Beverly Cleary, who – fun fact I just learned – grew up in Portland.  That tree in there has figures from children’s stories carved into it.
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We didn’t spend too much time there because a) we couldn’t check anything out, and b) WE HAD TO GO TO POWELL’S.

Last time we were there, I mentioned being overwhelmed, but in a good way.  This time, that feeling was tinged with anxiety.  There are SO many books, and SO many books I want to read.  How will I ever find the time to read them all?  That idea, that abundance of books – it should feel wonderful, exciting, comforting maybe.  I’ll never run out of things to read (as if that were possible).  Thursday, though, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.  Maybe I just need a vacation.  Yeah, no, I KNOW I need a vacation.

Anyway, we kept that visit pretty short because we were hungry and we had a show to get to.  Dinner was Japanese, shared, really good.  The theater was on the other side of a park from the restaurant, and as we crossed into the park, we saw this sign:

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Eugene has bike routes everywhere.  Portland has skate routes.  Because Portland.  I think the guy on the right is on rollerblades, but it’s hard to tell.  His other foot might be a giant circular saw.

It doesn’t take much

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Lawrence Block’s The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons for the last week or so.  I like the burglar books, but this is not one of the better ones, plot-wise.  There’s some fun character stuff, but also a few unnecessary diversions and a couple of truly stupid characters.  It passed the time, but it all became worth it this morning with the name of a cheese store, mentioned in passing during prep for the denouement (fancy word!): Sweet Suffering Cheeses.  I laughed out loud, startling the homeless guy I was riding by.  I hope it’s a real store.

Wait – nope.  Doesn’t appear to be real.  Quick!  Someone go open a cheese store and name it that.

A little disappointing

I love the Welcome to Night Vale podcast.  I like the stories, I like the weirdness, and oh! We’re going to see one of their live shows next month in Portland!  So I’m excited about that.  But (there’s always a but) I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in the book.  They wrote a book, a novel set in Night Vale, about two characters not in the podcast, but surrounded by the usual Night Vale….denizens.  The story isn’t grabbing me, and I think the style (very much the style of the podcast) doesn’t really translate to the written word.  Sometimes I can hear it being read to me by Cecil (the voice of the podcast), and that helps, but not always and not enough.  Clearly, I should have gotten the audiobook instead, which IS narrated by Cecil.

I’ve been pretty quick to put down books I can’t get into lately, but I’m going to finish this one.  I am.  Because.  Then I can go back to enjoying the podcast.  I haven’t listened to it since I started the book.  I’m treating it like a reward.  I can listen when I finish the book!

Branching out, except not really

If you asked me without context, I’d probably say I don’t usually like military SF, but I’m pretty sure that’s not true.  Like, at all.  I just can’t think of any examples except the books I’m reading right now.  The Confederation series by Tanya Huff is great. (Dad, you’ll love it.  The first book is Valor’s Choice.)  I read the first two when Mel and I went to Mexico last February, and I picked up books 3, 4, and 5 from the library this past weekend.  I finished 4 and started 5 today.  Can’t get enough.  The main character is a kickass NCO space marine.  She’s awesome.  There’s a book 6 – if the library doesn’t have it this weekend, I’ll have to buy it.  I’m okay with that.