This whole Hugo Voter thing is SO COOL

The Hugo Voter Packet was released recently, and do you know what that is?  I mean, I didn’t know it existed until after I got into this process, and then I kind of knew I’d get a voter packet, and I kind of knew what that meant, but I just downloaded it yesterday and GUYS.  It’s like my birthday and Christmas and Hanukkah and people just giving me presents for NO REASON.  That’s how cool it is.  The Hugo Voter Packet contains electronic copies of many, if not most, of the Hugo nominees for best novel, novella, short story, novelette, series, art, magazine and so on through all the categories AND NOW I HAVE THEM ALL.

I am so happy to have these AND it makes my “what should I read next” dilemma WAY easier to solve.  Voting is over in a month and a half.  What will I read next?  Everything in my Hugo Voter Packet!

Blogs and books and bears – okay, no bears

My blogging muscle appears to have atrophied.  I don’t know if I just don’t have anything to say, or if I’m avoiding it because I’m a little single-minded lately and I don’t want to be repetitive, or if I just haven’t felt like it and when I think about it, I decide I’d rather be reading.

It’s a little of all three and a lot of the last one, which is kind of funny because I’ve also fallen into a book funk.  AND my book list broke because it got too big and I’m going to have to change the format of it, and I need a test version of my site so I can poke around and try things, and I haven’t gotten around to doing that, and maybe that’s also a little bit of why I’ve stayed away?

Anyway, the book funk.  The last book I read that I LOVED was 13 books ago.  Of the 12 since then, including the one I’m reading now, I liked six okay, really liked only one (The Trespasser by Tana French), thought two were meh but finished them anyway, and I gave up on three.

The books I gave up on:

  • Magic Bites, the first Kate Daniels book, by Ilona Andrews.  It’s urban fantasy, or maybe paranormal romance, or maybe both.  I like that genre (duh), but I just didn’t care about this one.  Couldn’t get into it.  There’s one series like this that I heard was really good starting with the second book, but I can’t remember if it was this one, and Twitter wasn’t able to help me when I asked.  So I gave it up.  There are lots of other books in the sea.
  • A Window Opens, by Elizabeth Egan.  Supposed to be in the vein of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, which I LOVED, and Today Will Be Different, which I strongly disliked (both by Maria Semple).  This one fell into the strongly dislike category.  The main character and the overall situation should be relatable, but I just can’t with her character, her decisions, her choices.  So I quit halfway through.
  • The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware.  It’s a thriller, but I didn’t like the protagonist, and the whole thing felt weirdly paced and plotted.  I don’t think I made it a third of the way in.

Thankfully, the book I picked up after giving up on those last two IN A ROW was one of the Hugo nominees, and while it had a slow start, I ended up liking it just fine.  Now I’m reading one that I’m enjoying, but I don’t love – I don’t have that need to drop everything else so I can have more time to read.

I am confident that I can climb out of my book funk, though.  There’s a Tanya Huff trilogy I haven’t read yet staring at me from the shelf, and the Hugo Voter Packet should arrive soonish, which is SUPER exciting and which I’ll tell you all about when it gets here.

What’s with today, today?

Today was a sucky day.  The plans I had for my workday went out the window right from the beginning, which means I’m way behind, and I just put in an extra hour that sucked and I’m still behind but I’m 100% done for today.  I’m cranky and it’s going to rain tomorrow and if I’m supposed to be some glowing pregnant goddess right now, well…I’m very definitely NOT.

Add being in a book funk to my list of woes.  My book is odd.  I like it, but the technology in this universe is, I think, deliberately inscrutable.  It could be really interesting – it relies on calendars, dates, and the population’s belief in those calendars – but the way it’s described is not clear at all.  The characters are interesting, and the plot is interesting, but there’s a space battle and how it’s being waged might as well be in Greek.

I was really looking forward to this one, too.

Hugo update (the awards)

The Hugo nominations were announced last weekend, and my nominations don’t look a lot like the final slate for voting.  Out of the six books up for Best Novel, only ONE of my picks is on the list (The Stone Sky, NK Jemisin), I haven’t read four of them (YET – a trip to the library is in my immediate future), and one book that I decided not to finish because the writing felt…amateurish…IS on the list.  Voting for the Hugos involves ranking the nominees.  That one will be last for me.  For Best Novella, three of my picks are on the list, so I feel a little better about that, but my one pick for Best Novelette didn’t make it.

TWO episodes of The Good Place were nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form, which is GREAT because I love that show so much.  (If you’re not watching it, go watch it.)

I don’t know when voting will start, aside from sometime this month, but I’m totally ready!  Except for not having read four of the six nominees for Best Novel.  But I’ll get there!

Something? Anything?

Book news: I put another book down today.  It’s supposed to be classic fantasy about a minstrel who can teleport and travels his world, but I got halfway through and couldn’t deal with the casual women-as-objects issue (late 70s, author is a woman – I can’t even blame it on male chauvinism) or the lack of character development.  On the plus side, I’m finally going to read Uprooted by Naomi Novik.  I loved the Temeraire books SO MUCH, and I only even noticed them because Uprooted (which is not related to those) had just been published and was getting attention.  I’ve been saving Uprooted because I know I’ll love it, and sometimes I just do that.  There’s still a Robin McKinley novel I haven’t read because I’m saving it.  I started Uprooted over lunch today, and I loved it from the first sentence, so I’ll be a happy reader for a few days.

Weird sad news: one of our neighbors died the other day.  We saw police cars and police officers milling around next door, but no sirens.  It seems her roommates found her in her bed that morning, an apparent overdose, but no idea if it was accidental or on purpose.

Just weird news: I was sitting at my desk, on a conference call with a customer in Wisconsin, when all of a sudden a giant silver ladder came to rest outside the window directly in front of me and this dude climbed up until he completely filled the frame and scraped old paint off the windowsill outside.  He had headphones on, and I think he was trying as hard not to look at me as I was not to look at him.  Super awkward, and it was a huge distraction.  It’s hard to have a work conversation when there’s a person outside your window less than 6 feet away.  Thankfully, he didn’t take long and then he was gone.

Pregnancy-related news: See tomorrow’s post.

PROBLEMATIC

I finished the third book in the giant telepathic cat trilogy.  The story was good – I wanted to read it, I wanted to find out what happens next – but the love story was TERRIBLE.  It’s so bad I have to tell you about it.  Spoilers for the series follow, although I doubt any of you are going to read these books.

Book 1:

In the first book, the love story is not offensive.  In fact, it’s barely there, for very good reasons, and I remember specifically appreciating that as the story moved along.  Our main character, Doyce (oh, the names, but that’s a separate issue), is in her mid to late 30s, engaged to a guy who gets murdered right at the beginning of the story.  Tragic to begin with, but doubly so for her because 10 years earlier, she lost her first husband and baby girl in a house fire.  She spends the entire book grieving while searching for her fiance’s murderer, questioning whether she deserves love and happiness at all since she seems to be destined to lose it, and she certainly appears to be in no hurry to look for it again.  TOTALLY REASONABLE.  No complaints here.

Maybe I should point out that Doyce is not a giant telepathic cat.  The main characters are humans, many of whom have giant telepathic cats as companions.  Anyway.

While searching for the person who murdered her fiance, Doyce is joined by this very handsome, super arrogant dude named Jenret who is sort of a co-worker, so they sort of know each other.  Does he like her?  Of course not!  Everyone is beneath him!  Does she like him?  Not at all!  Plus, grieving, doesn’t deserve happiness, not even thinking about romance, etc., for all the good reasons listed above.  All good, and the author keeps the (sigh) inevitable romance on a super-low heat back burner.  Over time and this quest for the murderer, they learn to appreciate each other and depend on each other and maybe like each other a little, but there is ZERO discussion of it, there are ZERO romantic interludes, and at the end of the book, Doyce defeats the murderer in another super-traumatic event with the support of Jenret and their other companions.

No real love story – hurray!  Or if there was meant to be one, which the beginning of book 2 implies, it was so badly done I didn’t notice it.

Book 2:

Doyce is healing.  She’s staying at Jenret’s mother’s house, but she’s tormented mentally, she has blocked most of the events of the first book from her memory, and she’s not ready to rejoin the real world.  Apparently, Jenret has supported her through all of this turmoil, and they’ve exchanged lovey-dovey words and promises and whatever, but as she comes out of this interlude, she doesn’t remember any of it.  She remembers him and everyone else, but whatever feelings she developed for him (that the author completely failed to show the reader), she doesn’t remember and doesn’t feel, and she’s seriously irritated with him every time he invades her personal space.  He seems to understand that she doesn’t remember, but he’s hurt by it and he can’t seem to give her room to grow out of it on her own.  So maybe this is a deliberate characterization of him being selfish – I can deal with that.

The two of them plus a handful of other people go on another quest.  Jenret is being weirdly touchy-feely and possessive (to her point of view), and she keeps pushing him off.  Internally, she thinks maybe she likes him, but she needs time (she’s been through A LOT), and she still doesn’t remember him helping her heal after the first book.  He agonizes over it.  Some other dude they meet is aware of Jenret’s feelings for Doyce, flirts with her a bit to make him jealous (although she doesn’t seem to have a clue that any of this is going on – she’s focused on the mission), and then one night, Jenret gets drunk, declares his love for Doyce and says he has to have her and TRIES TO RAPE HER. Like, no question about it – his pants are off, he has tackled her to the ground, she’s yelling and struggling, and he only doesn’t succeed because his giant telepathic cat claws his naked butt.  So thankfully, she is royally pissed, she specifically calls it rape, and he tries to apologize and explain, and she’s having none of it.

At this point in the book, I was shocked.  Totally didn’t see that coming, and I was happy they weren’t sugar-coating it, and I was happy Doyce was really, truly angry.  So maybe the love story was lackluster because it was never meant to be one.  She’s grieving in the first book,  he’s a violent selfish prick in the second one – I can get behind this.  To continue.

Of course, they’re on a mission, and they have to complete the mission, and he’s ashamed, and she’s mad, and then they’re all escaping and he gets really hurt and while they’re in hiding SHE SLEEPS WITH HIM.  !!!!  Of her own volition, at her own instigation.  Why?  I have NO IDEA.  There’s no build-up, I don’t see why she would want to have anything to do with him…so I was not thrilled with that decision.  After that, he thinks things are great, she says not so fast and continues to hold him at arm’s length, but now he has hope.  At the end of the book, she discovers she’s pregnant, and what does she do?  SHE ASKS HIM TO MARRY HER.  This is not a society that says she has to be married.  This is not a society that says she has to keep the baby.  SHE DECIDES TO MARRY HER RAPIST.  WTF.  And that’s how the second book ends.

Book 3:

Months later, Doyce is largely pregnant, Jenret (still arrogant, still immature) is away on a Very Important Mission, she’s angry he isn’t around, he waxes poetic about missing the love of his life, and they still aren’t married.  Little spark of hope again: maybe the author is going to have them realize that they shouldn’t be married?  NOPE.  No mention of the rape, of their history, of their issues.  Adventure, adventure, adventure (separate ones this time), and Doyce is saving two kids at the end, and the stress leads her to start labor, and then Jenret appears out of nowhere to be there when she gives birth, and then they get married.

Ugh.  Gross.  By the rape scene in Book 2, I lost all interest in the “love” story.  The only things that kept me going were the giant telepathic cats.  Now the trilogy is done, and so am I.  There are a couple of companion books, but no.  Just…no.

All the books, please

Saturday morning, we went to a library book sale in Warwick, and for the first time, I missed Loudoun County.  The Loudoun County Public Library book sale was (still is, I imagine) a thing of wonder.  This library book sale was a little smaller than our Ashburn library book sale.  That didn’t stop me from getting out of there with eight or so books, of course.  After we left the library, we celebrated by going to a used bookstore in downtown Providence, where I picked up another three or four books.  This is after last weekend, when we spotted two used bookstores while driving around southern Massachusetts, stopped at both, and came home with about ten books.

I am definitely back in the physical book business.

Also, I feel like I put off the hard decision of deciding what to read next by going the easy route of picking up the next in the series about giant telepathic cats.  So even though I made a decision, I don’t feel like I made a decision.  Best of both worlds!

Comfort reading pays off

I just finished Trading in Danger, by Elizabeth Moon, and I really enjoyed it.  (I bought it because it was recommended as good space opera on Tor.com and also, the author co-wrote a few books with Anne McCaffrey, so there’s some built-in trust.)  It reminded me a lot of Tanya Huff’s Valor series (Torin Kerr is my favorite space marine).  This one is space military-adjacent, with a spunky young main character who has to save her ship and her crew, and it’s the first in a series, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one at used bookstores.  Dad, I do have this first one on my Kindle, if you want to try it.  Light, fun, exciting.  (I also have a physical copy of it because sometimes I forget what I already own…)

And now, I have my usual problem: what to read next?  Despite my lack of success with the Hugo books, I had a limited list and I knew I wanted to read them all, so I just plowed through it.  Now, though, I have…48 physical books on my bookshelf (I just counted), all of which I want to read, and I have 295 books on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet, WHICH IS A CRIME.  And to make matters worse, which also makes me happy, which makes matters better, but harder, there’s a library book sale in Warwick tomorrow and of COURSE we’re going.

So the REAL question is this: should I put myself through the turmoil of picking a book tonight or should I wait until I get home from the book sale tomorrow (because we’re going first thing, naturally), when I will have more books to choose from and probably a harder decision?

On the one hand, why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?  On the other hand, what will I read tonight?

MY LIFE IS SO HARD.

Building my book list

Margaret asked me how I choose books.  Anyone else curious?  Eh, I’ll tell you anyway.  I have a very sophisticated method that involves ranking and graphs and sales numbers and no, none of that is true.  I keep a list.  Hardly rocket science, I know.  My list is very long, but because of how I’ve built it, I’m pretty confident that I will like just about anything from that list that I choose to read.  It’s not foolproof (many of my Hugo books were on my list already, and I didn’t like them all), but it’s usually a pretty good system.

How do I decide what goes on my list?  Well, that’s a whole thing.  First, the easy ones are every other book written by an author I like that I haven’t read yet.  Everything else, pretty much, is based on a recommendation, and that’s where it gets tricky.  Whose recommendations do you trust?  The only way through that mess is trial and error, I think.  I go with authors/writers whose writing I like.  They’ll often have blog posts or regular articles or something listing books and authors they love, and I figure if I love them, and they love this other author, the chances are good that I will, too.  That works more often than not (and authors I follow on Twitter tend to promote other authors they like, so the list continues to grow), but it’s not always great.  There was this one blogger I used to read – he reviewed movies, and he and I liked the same ones.  So when he listed books he’d read recently that he really liked, I figured I could trust that his taste and mine would be similar.  I ordered three of them, basically sight unseen.  Not a smart move.  None of the three were bad, but they were most definitely not my style.  So I learned not to trust that guy’s taste in books.

Book recommendations from friends and family are tougher, although I think I’m pretty lucky in that.  Knowing their reading habits, I can’t think of a single friend or relative (of those likely to recommend stuff) I’d be wary of a recommendation from.

I don’t read a lot of book reviews (they tend to go too deep into a book, and I would like to read it first, thanks), but Tor.com puts out a LOT of reviews and articles and celebrations of books, old and new (all science fiction and fantasy), and I’ve been adding to my list a lot from their site.

If I’m buying a physical book from an actual store, and I have it in my hands, I almost always read the first few pages before I buy it.  That plan took a book off my list just last week.  I could do that with Kindle books (download the free sample), but I never think of it.  I should do that.

Choosing the next book to read is a whole other thing, but at least I have plenty to choose from.

Hugo nominations

It’s time.  The Hugo nominations are due a week from yesterday, but I’m not going to read any more eligible books between now and then, so here goes.

I’m only nominating in three categories: novel, novella, and novelette.  I can nominate up to five per category, but I really only have four novels and just one novelette (that I thought counted as a novella until I looked it up just now, which is wonderful news because now novella #6 is actually novella #5 and I can nominate it!).

In no particular order (although kind of in this order):

Novels

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
  • The Refrigerator Monologues by Cat Valente
  • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

Novellas

  • River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  • The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson
  • Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

Novelette

  • Fisher of Bones by Sarah Gailey

Aaaaaaannnndddd nominated.

Used books are treasure chests

I bought a used book at a convention in Boston the other weekend, and it is a perfect example of why I love used books.  It came with STUFF!

I got it home and I started reading it, and a few pages in, a bunch of Mickey Mouse stickers fell out from between the pages.  Early birthday present, I guess.  The next day, further into the book, I turned a page and found two business cards for a lady in Massachusetts.  Someone had written what looks like flight information on the back of one of them, plus “Poo Monday 9:00”.  I have no idea what that means or what it has to do with flight times, and I don’t plan to speculate.

Next up, maybe halfway through the book, was a flattened piece of red cellophane, maybe a candy wrapper.  Pretty.  And last, an actual bookmark.

On top of that, I liked the book.  It was the gift that kept giving!

Hugo burnout

I had to take a break from reading only Hugo-eligible books.  Since I started that plan (right around New Year’s Day, I’ve read 19 Hugo-eligible novels and novellas.  I’ve really liked seven of them, but that leaves too many books in recent memory that I didn’t like all that much.  That hurts my brain.  I need to go back to my normal approach to choosing books, and for next year’s Hugos, I’ll just have to sprinkle in eligible books throughout the year.  I think it’s the only way I’ll survive.

I started my break, and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.  I never expected to be so stressed out by this.  When I don’t like a book, or when I put one down without finishing (I only did that ONCE), and the stakes are whether or not I nominate it for a Hugo, I feel like I’m letting the author down.  As if my one nomination is going to make a difference.  Still, I’m sorry, author!  I feel bad!

Nominations are due a week from Friday, so this will soon be in the past.  Until it’s time to vote.  But that part should be fun.

Two out of three ain’t bad

How to make the perfect Saturday for me:

  1. Sleep in, but not too late.  We got up just before nine.
  2. Go out to breakfast.  We tried a new place, I had bananas foster french toast, and it was glorious.
  3. Go to a bookstore.  We went to Barrington Books in Cranston, which is on a list of the five best bookstores in Rhode Island.  I got four more Hugo nom possibilities.  New books!
  4. Go to a used bookstore.  It was about four miles from where we were, so we checked it out. Disappointing. It was the back room of an antique store.
  5. Go to another used bookstore!  Much better.  I picked up four more books, including the full set of the Amber books (in two volumes) by Roger Zelazny, classics I’ve never read and now can.
  6. Go to the gym.  Watched an episode of Jane the Virgin while I was there, and now I feel better about myself after the french toast for breakfast.
  7. Spend the afternoon reading.
  8. Get Chinese food delivered.
  9. Watch a movie (or binge TV).

I want to be like Barack

I finished City of Brass, which was fantastic, and I can’t wait for the sequel, and oh crap.  I have just rediscovered the down side to reading brand new books.  This book was published two months ago.  The author has not yet finished writing the sequel.  She’s probably only barely begun.  What have I done?

I’m excited to have finished City of Brass, not because I wished for it to be over (I did not, despite speeding through the last third because wow stuff was happening), but because now I am free to read my next potential Hugo nominee, The Power, by Naomi Alderman.  I had just barely heard of it, had JUST added it to my list, when Baader-Meinhof kicked in.  The very next day, maybe later the same day(?), I read about Obama posting his favorite books, songs, etc., of 2017.  Top of his list?  (Okay, it’s alphabetical, but it’s still ON his list.)  The Power, by Naomi Alderman.  I am vindicated.  Also, super excited about this book.

First Hugo Casualty

Six Wakes is the first novel I picked up with the express purpose of deciding if I would nominate it for a Hugo.  It only took me a few pages to decide that I would not.  It took me nearly halfway before I decided not to even finish it.  I don’t think I’m being pickier than usual, or feeling self-important about my new-found (new-bought) influence in the SFF world, but I did fret about putting this one down completely.  The writing is…not great (noticeable from the first few pages).  It certainly doesn’t live up to the premise, which is pretty cool, but maybe the book could have been saved by a good editor.  Maybe it WAS saved, and this was as far as she could take it.  I stuck with it because I liked the story and figured I could still find out what happens – just because I may not nominate something doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable read – but then I stopped enjoying it.  I started skimming.  !!!

Tip for Future Me: if you’re skimming a book because you want to know the end but you can’t handle reading every word, put it down and look up the plot summary online.  Save your reading time for books you want to read.

Anyway, I feel guilty about it, but I put the book down for my own sanity and then promptly read the plot summary online.  And now I know the end…and I’m kind of glad I didn’t keep reading.  It doesn’t sound like it pays off.

I will be taking this duty very seriously

Last summer, Erik told us that WorldCon (the World Science Fiction Convention, if you’d like to be formal about it) is going to be in San Jose this coming summer.  WorldCon is where they present the Hugo Awards (awarded to the best science fiction and fantasy of the year before, in a lot of different categories), and the winners are chosen by members (anyone who goes to the convention, plus a few others).  Like, I’m going to be able to vote and help decide who wins a Hugo this year.  Plus it’s a big convention with a ton of my favorite authors, and so, pretty much since the day Erik told us about it (which might have been during our last visit), we’ve been planning to go.

I finally bought our memberships just before the end of the year.  (John and I are members of the World Science Fiction Society now, and at the moment, I think I might keep that up.  Seems like a thing I should be a member of.)  I could have bought our memberships (giving us access to the convention) at any time, but I was prompted to do it before New Year’s by one very cool thing I found out in the nick of time: becoming a member before the end of the year means that not only do we get to vote, we get to nominate.

You can’t see me jumping up and down through your browser, I know, but you can imagine it.  I’ve been squeeing in some form, inside or out, for the past four days.

I have read 13 books/novellas in the last year that are eligible for Hugo Award nomination.  I can nominate up to 5 in each of the 15-ish categories, although I won’t hit them all.  Some categories are for things like Best Editor or Best Semi Pro Zine, something I really can’t judge.  I’ll focus on novels, novellas, graphic novels, movies, short stories, and stuff like that.  They haven’t announced when nominations are due, but until I hit that deadline (maybe February or March?), I will only be reading Hugo-eligible works (which is any science fiction/fantasy/horror published in 2017).

I’m so excited!

All the books I want to read should be 99 cents all the time

Today is our anniversary, but what I want to talk about is e-book prices on Amazon and what I deserve just for being me.  I mean, obviously, I deserve all good things, right?  That should go without saying, but my sense of entitlement extends to sales on Amazon.  I’m inordinately annoyed when I sort my book list by price and find that none of the books on it have gone on sale in the last 12 hours.  It’s like Amazon doesn’t WANT me to buy books.  Jeez!  This is the same sense of entitlement that led to me bitching when Amazon took away my ability to sort my list by price, except worse because how ridiculous is it for me to expect MY books to be on sale?  Plenty of other books go on sale every day – it’s not Amazon’s fault I don’t want to read those.

So yeah.  That’s today.

Please, sir, may I have some more?

I LOVE the books I just finished.  It’s a set of two by Seanan McGuire (who I enjoy more with every book).  Premise: fairy tales exist in the real world, anyone can suddenly be turned into one, and there’s a secret government agency trying to prevent these incursions because they cause trouble and kill people.  Fairy tales are grim, guys.

HOW GREAT IS THAT?

The first book (Indexing) was written as a serial, which is very occasionally annoying in novel form because some things get explained (lightly, but still) in more than one chapter, but it’s easy to overlook.  I don’t think the second one (Indexing: Reflections) was written that way.

I want more.  More characters, more fairy tales, more ways fairy tales can mess with the world, more ways fairy tales can be twisted to fit into the modern world.  MOAR!

Book Funk

The other day, John told me I’m in a book funk.  I objected.  I told him I am NOT in a book funk, I like the book I’m reading now.  He pointed out, accurately, that I was JUST telling him what I don’t like about that exact book.  Leaving aside that I’m capable of liking a book while not liking something about it, so that’s not really an indicator of whether I’m enjoying reading my book (maybe I’m enjoying complaining about it!), once I thought about it, I have to say he’s not wrong.  I might be in a book funk.   (Also, he wasn’t wrong about that book.  I think I’d have to say I didn’t like it overall, but I liked certain things about it.)

I just went back to my book list, and my ratio of books I don’t like to books I like is WAY higher than normal.  Over the last 12 weeks, I have not liked 10 out of 29 books.  That’s a full third of the books I’ve picked up in the last three months.  Either I’m getting worse at picking out books or I’m getting better at recognizing what I shouldn’t be spending my time on.  The second thing sounds better.  Let’s go with that.