Short on time, as usual

I just used up my blogging time recommending books to online friends, and that makes me happy.  Hopefully those recommendations will make them happy.  But it means this is all I can write in the time I have.  (Also, I had to spend an unexpected 45 minutes putting Jack to sleep after John tagged me in.  Jack was NOT sleepy.  We gave him a few bites of custard and a bite of brownie after dinner, so I’m blaming the sugar high.)

I am out of time!  Good night!

Word from above

For the first time in FOUR MONTHS, I got a renewal notice email from our library.  The books that I took out (one for me, that, as I believe I have mentioned, was TERRIBLE and NOT GOOD and I DID NOT FINISH it, and five for Jack) back in the first week of March have been renewed through the end of the month.

Our local libraries are providing curbside pickup now, but I’m not sure how I feel about bringing new library books home.  I’m fine with returning the ones we have, although I don’t think Jack would agree with that.  We read four of the five nearly every day, and one of them has become a favorite in the last two weeks.

Their website doesn’t talk about how they’re handling returns or what they’re doing before they send them back out.  I’m going to have to add “call the library” to my to-do list.  And I don’t know what to get Jack without browsing, so maybe I’ll ask them to surprise us.  IF I’m comfortable with whatever they’re doing with the books. And I’m not sure what I’d be comfortable with.  Just a full cleaning?  What does that mean?  Wipe every page?  A few days’ quarantine?  Maybe wipe it down AND quarantine….ugh.  THIS IS HARD.

Six weeks to go!

Yesterday, while complaining musing about the difficulties of choosing my next book, I mentioned that the only thing that makes that decision easier is having a specific reading project.  Well, the universe listened and released this year’s Hugo voter packet to voting and attending members of WorldCon, so…I’m all set for the next six weeks.

Whew.  No stress about what’s next on the list.

Do I feel a tiny bit limited because now I feel like I HAVE to read the Hugo-nominated books and short stories and novellas?  Maybe, but that’s because I’m dumb.  An organization that I voluntarily joined and support and enjoy is giving me free books to read so I’ll be informed enough to vote on which ones are best.

Do I feel a little bit stressed about getting it done in time?  Yes (I have six weeks), but I can manage that kind of stress. I’ve already read three of the six nominees for best novel and two of the six nominees for best YA novel.  And for best series, I’m pretty sure the trilogy I’m reading right now is getting my vote.  Out of the other five series nominated, I’ve read all of one (Expanse), most of another (InCryptid), and the first of a third (Wormwood) that I didn’t like very much.  That only leaves two, and I think I can live with myself if I don’t get through them in time.

I can do this!  Prioritization!  Focus!  Staying up late!

A time-turner could be handy here

Mel just asked me for book recommendations, and while we were talking about that, she remembered reading something of mine the last time she visited that turned out to be scary.  She couldn’t remember the title or the author, and her description of the book didn’t ring any bells for me.  While she was checking with Corey (who read it, too, after SHE recommended it), I fell down the rabbit hole that is my Kindle library.

Guys, I have 711 Kindle books, and I haven’t read most of them.  I WANT to read them all – I was just browsing to see if any of the titles reminded me of the book Mel was talking about, and instead I was hit with this overwhelming desire to quit my job and hire someone to take care of Jack and just read all day every day until I can catch up.  If only we could win the lottery…

Part of my Kindle problem is that I can’t SEE the books.  I have plenty to read, but it’s hard to decide what’s next (unless I have a specific reading project) because I forget what I have, and there’s no easy way to view it all.  I want a holographic bookshelf.  I would like to project the title pages of my Kindle books onto a wall so I can browse through them as if they were on a bookshelf, not just a list, and decide what to read next.  Maybe that’s our million-dollar app idea!  Projection would be the hard part… (Yes, I know I can view my Kindle contents as a grid.  It’s not the same.)

Let’s shelve that idea for now, and get back to the point which is I DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ.  I’ve got a bookshelf overflowing with dead-tree books I don’t have time to read, either.  More on this in the near future.

The books Mel was thinking of (Corey identified it) were White Silence and its sequel, Dark Light, by Jodi Taylor.

We’re communicating!

Jack’s shorthand for telling us what book he wants to read:

  • “Hat” is I Want My Hat Back.
  • “Choo choo” is usually The Little Engine That Could and sometimes The Little Red Caboose.
  • “Baby” is usually Astrophysics for Babies, but sometimes “Baby Dear”.
  • “Guck” could be any number of truck books.
  • “Beep” is one of the Little Blue Truck books.
  • “Hello” is The Pigeon Wants a Puppy.  (The first line is “Oh, hello”.)
  • “No. Hmph,” is Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.  (That’s his favorite part of the book.)
  • “Hop” is usually Bunny in the Winter, but could be Pat the Bunny.
  • “Ah-boo”, I discovered tonight, is Baby Peekaboo.

Losing it

I finished my last book during Jack’s nap today, and (le sigh), really enjoyed it all the way through.  So glad it’s nominated for a Hugo.  And, since Jack is STILL napping, I get to start a new one!  AND and, it’s by an author I love.  I’m only three pages in, but I am confident I’m going to be happy with this book, which (again) is SUCH a nice feeling.

Speaking of pages, this is the first time since the end of January that I’m reading an actual dead-tree book.  Apparently, I’ve forgotten how they work.  I got to the bottom of a right-hand page and SWIPED.  Honest-to-god, cross-my-heart, SWIPED at a page as though it were my Kindle.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

The late fees would be ridiculous

As you probably remember, Jack and I used to go to the library a LOT.  And by “the library”, I mean any one of five libraries, since we pretty much went to a different library for story time or sing-alongs every weekday.  And since we were at the library so much, library books had pretty high turnover at our house.  Right up until the pandemic, anyway, when all of the libraries shut down and stopped accepting returns.

I have one book and Jack has six or seven, all borrowed in February.  My book, unfortunately, wasn’t good enough to finish, so now I’m stuck with a library book I didn’t even like.  Out of Jack’s haul, there’s only one he’s not interested in, but I wonder how much he’ll protest if those ever disappear from his shelf.  There are a couple we read all the time.  Of course, this is assuming we’re ever allowed to return them.

I wonder how many books libraries have out right now.  I’m sure they’d rather have them back than have to replace them, but after so many months in everyone’s homes, how many books would need to be replaced anyway?  Or can’t be found?  I’m willing to bet libraries aren’t going to charge replacement fees.

*I should note that I have been taking a ton of e-books out of the library – I’m certainly not hurting for reading material.  I’m just annoyed that the book I got stuck with was so irritating I couldn’t finish it.

It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing

I love it when I’m totally engrossed in my book.  I’ve only felt that about one other one in the last eight (including this one in that count).  I had a good string before that, though.  Even when I can only read in short snatches or in the few conscious minutes I have before passing out at night, it’s always a really good feeling to want to get back to my book.  So much better than having to remind myself which book I’m reading.

Anyway, yay for Catfishing on CatNet and yay for Naomi Kritzer.

Are obnoxiously arrogant teenagers better than brooding vampires?

Oh, this book I’m reading.  It’s young adult, which usually means it’ll be fast-paced at least, and the premise is interesting, and it’s not TOO teen-angsty (yet), and no one has asked me to sympathize with an ancient brooding vampire inexplicably in love with a 15-year-old (YET).  Okay, that last one isn’t fair – none of the characters are ancient brooding vampires, or even vampires at all.  But there’s at least one really obvious plot twist coming (I KNOW WHO YOUR FATHER IS, MAIN CHARACTER), and if I’m meant to believe none of these characters even suspected, then the author thinks I’m an idiot.  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and be totally wrong.

I sound like I don’t like the book.  I’m enjoying it, when I have time to read, but I’m usually really tired by then, and I can’t get very far in one sitting before I’m unconscious.  This is a terrible position to be in.

Fictional crossover

It’s funny how many books I’ve read recently that cross characters from different books or fictionalize (and then match up) real people who probably didn’t know each other (and certainly didn’t solve mysteries together).  The Case of the Missing Miss paired up Charles Dodgson with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (which I started yesterday) pairs up the daughter of Dr. Jeckyll with Holmes and Watson (and I’m expecting Dr. Frankenstein to make an appearance, or perhaps his daughter).  Then there are all the alternative Holmes/Watson stories, like The Tea Master and the Detective (Watson is a sentient spaceship who makes tea) and A Study in Charlotte, where the Holmes and Watson characters are descendants of Sherlock and the good doctor.  And I have another one I’ll read soon (A Study in Honor) set in the near future with Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes.

It’s essentially fan fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and these last few years appear to be THE time for it.

Updated days later: Since I ended up not liking the Jeckyll and Hyde and Holmes and Watson and Frankenstein and so on and so on and so on book, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for this blog post.  It’s still notable (I think) how many of these books there have been lately (or at least how many of them I’ve been reading), but I’m less inclined to gush about it since I was disappointed by the latest one*.  And to be fair, I wasn’t crazy about the Dodgson/Doyle one, either.  To be more fair, the issues I had with both books had nothing to do with their premises.  I take issue with the execution (which I discussed in my mini reviews for both books, so I’m not going to repeat myself here).  I absolutely plan to keep reading this stuff.  Hey, look, that’s a sort of enthusiasm.  Yay, genre!  Boo, bad writing!

*I’m especially disappointed by the Alchemist’s Daughter book because I heard the author speak at Boskone in February, and I really liked her.  I feel betrayed.  Just a little.

Sometimes I need structure

We’re going to Boskone (a science fiction convention in Boston), and I have a reading plan to fill the few weeks before we get there.  There’s a long list of authors participating, many of  whom I’ve read, more I’ve heard of but haven’t read yet, and even more I haven’t heard of, so in the next few weeks (and for the past week), my goal is to read at least one book by an author I haven’t read before who will be participating in this convention.  So far, I’ve read Updraft by Fran Wilde and I’m on the third of a trilogy by Sarah Beth Durst.  Next might be a couple of short stories by John Chu or a novelette by Vajnar Rajna or the first in the Craft sequence by Max Gladstone.  And I need to find a copy of Rebecca Roanhorse’s book.  After that, we’ll see how much time I have before the convention and how many others I can fit in.  At least a few, but how to choose when I haven’t heard of the author?

Ooh, the schedule has been posted.  I’m so excited!

Jarring

You know how some people spend a lot of time on playlists (the same type of people who used to spend a lot of time on mix tapes)? They want to get the right songs in the right order because it matters.  There’s a scene in High Fidelity (book and movie) where the main character talks about that.

I have never been that kind of person, and it shows most blatantly in my book choices.  Occasionally I’ll pick a book because I’m looking for a certain kind of experience (one year, I timed it so that I would be reading a book by Robin McKinley on my birthday because I knew I would love it and I wanted to be reading something I’d love on my birthday), but that choice (or any other book choice I make) almost never has anything to do with the book I just finished.  It leads to some pretty abrupt transitions.

Case in point: today, I finished a light and lovely book about two girls making their debuts in society in Regency England.  A few hours later, I started book 5 in a series about an alien invasion and the soldiers who have to fight them in space.

Keeps me on my toes.

Website update

I mentioned this a while back, but my book list (my What I’ve Been Reading page) crashed earlier this year because the way I’d been building it wasn’t ideal.  My solution has been to load each book as its own blog post and tag and categorize each one so they’ll show up on the new What I’ve Been Reading page. Unfortunately (for me), I have to create a new blog post for each book.  I’ve done that for all of 2018, but my next task (in all my free time) is to keep working on the list, all the way back to 2009. If you have subscribed so you get emails every time I post something, I apologize for flooding your inbox.  It’s going to keep happening here and there.  But I like the way it looks now!  So there’s that.

Also, I should be using this time to work, not write, so bye.

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.