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.

Scaredy-cat

I started a book the other day that I am too scared to read at night.  It’s good.  During the day, I enjoy it.  At night, I get creeped out.  The worst part is that I can’t remember how I found it or WHY I picked it out.  I don’t read a lot of scary stuff.  When I put a book on my private Amazon wish list so I can buy it later, I add a note so I know where I found it or who recommended it.  I can view books I’ve purchased FROM my wish list, and I can see those comments.  But that’s not how I got this book.  I mean, yes, I ordered it from Amazon, but it was an impulse buy (where impulse means it was only $1.99).  It was never on my wish list.  Somewhere online, probably on the day I bought it, I saw this book and was inspired to buy it.  Probably on Twitter.  But that doesn’t solve WHO I heard it from or WHY I thought this scary book would be a good idea.  I mean, it is a good idea.  Just not at night.

Quick stop

Yesterday, as we drove through the mountains in western Montana, we saw a sign advertising more than 100,000 used books at the Montana Valley Book Store.  You know us.  This is not something we could ignore.

It was in a tiny town, in the middle of the mountains (I don’t know which mountains), and the store was in this white house on the main road.

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The entire first floor had ceiling-high shelves, crammed full of books.  The picture I took only shows one side.

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The basement (slightly scary) ran the length of the house and had all the paperbacks in it.

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It was everything you could want in a used bookstore.  I really like the ones in old houses.  We didn’t stay long, but it helped us get through the rest of yesterday’s drive to Spokane.  It reinforced my growing desire to spend all of my free time in the library, if we ever actually get to Eugene.

(I bought a book, even though I’m not supposed to be buying books.  It’s a science fiction anthology edited by (and with commentary from) Isaac Asimov.  I felt the need to support the store.)

But really – what am I going to wear?

I met Jess for dinner tonight at Red Red Wine Bar.  It’s really good, and I’m glad we went, even if it is kind of hard to say.  Try it.  You might get it right the first time, but I bet you say “Red Wed Wine Bar” the second time.  Sober, even.  I had a good zinfandel (well, it was a little too sweet, but I liked the fruit in it, and I have NO idea where it came from), and Jess tried a sparkling wine flight.

I’m a little preoccupied right now, so this will probably be short.  I’m going to the office tomorrow (getting up early), and my brain is busy calculating how much (how little) sleep I’m going to get.  I’m also trying to decide what to wear.

It’s tough being me.

Also, Jess wants to buy someone their first Heinlein book and asked me to recommend one.  I think, for someone who doesn’t read science fiction, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is the place to start.  I think Erik would agree with me.

People are right about Portland

We spent about 12 hours hanging out in Portland last Monday, before our flight back home, and they were a VERY good 12 hours.  We had a really good day.  We spent the night just south of Portland, planning to sleep in.  That plan was foiled by a garbage truck in the parking lot of the hotel around 7:30am, but we were in no rush.  We checked out around 10, I think, and found an all-day parking spot in a lot downtown a few blocks away from Powell’s (!), which was the BIG reason we wanted to spend a day in Portland.

First, though, breakfast.  I spent 30 seconds googling all-day breakfast places in Portland, and I found a diner that sounded great.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t open, which was a little bit mysterious.  We were well within the hours posted on the door, and it specifically said it was open Mondays…but oh, well.  We took a walk and found another place that worked.  It didn’t look like much – it was travel-themed, Route 66-type, lots of souvenirs from road trips in the 50s, tacky decorative plates on the walls – but the music was GREAT, the waitresses (friendly) were all absent-mindedly singing along (so was I), and the brunch special was this egg scramble that had cauliflower in it.  Who thinks of that?  It was delicious.  Cauliflower, spinach, proscuitto, tomato, avocado on top.  Maybe something else.  SO GOOD.  And while we were there, we got the call from the property management company that our application for the house had been accepted, so YAY!

From there, we walked to Powell’s, and we didn’t come out again for HOURS and it was GLORIOUS.  We’d heard about it for years, of course, and I’ve been dying to see it.  I was not disappointed.  We stopped on every single floor and browsed nearly every single shelf.  It was overwhelming, in the best possible way.  Every shelf was a mix of new books and used books, hardcover and trade and mass market paperbacks, and the selection was varied and enormous.  After we toured the entire store, we stopped in the science fiction and fantasy section.  I didn’t come out of those shelves for at least two hours (maybe three).

The science fiction and fantasy section (which is enormous and comprehensive) reminded me entirely too much of what our bookshelves used to look like.  It was eerie.  Our personal collection was always heavily SFF, and this section had shelf after shelf of my favorite authors, with whole series represented (very different from your typical bookstore, but very much like what we had).  It felt like the best combination of used bookstore and library, and for the first time, I felt a twinge of regret about getting rid of so many of our books.  Just a twinge.

I stuck to my goals and DIDN’T buy ANYthing.  (John bought three books.)  We went for a wandering walk around the neighborhood, again with a restaurant I’d found online as our intended destination, but when we got there, it was a little fancy for how we were feeling.  There was an interesting looking place on the opposite corner, so we walked in there and were seated immediately.

I don’t remember what John had, but I had the spicy mac and cheese, and it was SO GOOD.  And while we were waiting, they brought us bite-size pieces of grilled cheese sandwich with lemon in it.  Sounds weird?  Was delicious.  The chefs were experimenting, apparently.  Dinner was really pleasant.

After all of that, it was only about 7:15, and we didn’t need to return our rental car until about 9.  We walked back to the car and realized that we’d parked right next to an arcade.  Serendipitous!  So we went into the arcade, John picked up a beer, we changed $5 for quarters, and we played Galaga and Joust and Tetris and Star Wars and X-Men and I-don’t-know-what until we ran out of quarters.  That was our signal to head to the airport, and thus ended our day in Portland.

It was a good day.