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 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?


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 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):


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


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.

It’s not you, it’s me. Except it’s totally you.

I’m in a bad book mood again, and (again) I can’t decide if it’s me or the books.  On Saturday, I finished A Taste of Marrow, a novella, the sequel to the hippo cowboy novella I read and loved a few months ago.  Still happy with those books.  So then I started Mariana, a recommendation from Chastity.  It’s sort of a cross between Anya Seton and Rosamunde Pilcher, and I enjoyed it enough (I wasn’t sure I liked it, but then I kept asking John to delay dinner so I could read more of it, so I suppose I did like it.  The very end cheated, though.)  I finished Mariana Sunday night, so it was time to pick my next book.  And that’s when the problem started.

Book 1: John Dies At The End.  This is a book I should like.  Normal (okay, “normal”) guys fighting monsters, saving people, lots of action, lots of humor…no.  It felt like it was trying too hard, the humor felt slapsticky, and I didn’t want to put forth the effort to stay interested.  They made it into a movie, and I can see how it would be a fun movie, so maybe I’ll watch it first (keep your shock to yourself) and then decide if I want to go back and read it.  Maybe it’s me.

Book 2: The Palace Job. I don’t feel so bad about putting this one down.  It’s a heist novel, and I like those, but no.  The writing sucks.  Definitely not me.

Book 3: A Handful of Stars. After giving up on two books in the space of one hour, I figured I’d pick something safe.  This is the sequel to Second Star, a book I liked, so this should be a no-brainer, right?  And yet…no.  I haven’t put it down yet, but it’s not working for me.  Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since I read the first one (I read it nearly two years ago), but I feel like I’m being asked too much as a reader.  It’s either that, or there really are gaps here.  So we’re in space, which of course is fine, since the first book was about the population of a space station declaring their independence, and this book starts with a mission to an asteroid belt to start a mining operation, and oh wait – our main character went on this expedition eight months pregnant?  With twins?  And just as she’s about to give birth (early), her mother shows up out of nowhere, no warning, with main character’s 10-year-old child that her mother created from a donor egg and didn’t tell her about, and she just goes with it?  No fights?  No discussions?  And the 10-year-old is cool with meeting his mother like that?  And her husband is totally cool with it all because he’s perfect, naturally.  And she goes running around a lawless mining asteroid with her infant twins strapped to her a month after the birth.  Of course.  And I have to assume she (main character) isn’t upset about any of this because the story is told from her point of view and I’m in her head and she’s not thinking about it aside from some initial confusion…well, this is ridiculous.

Yeah, I think I just talked myself out of this one, too.  And maybe it’s NOT me.  I am going to fix this by reading short stories by Robin McKinley.  If I don’t like those, it’s definitely me, but I’m not worried.  Really.  I’m not.  It’ll be fine.

Easy choices

I gave up on a book Monday afternoon because I was forcing myself to get through it for no good reason.  Every time I tried to describe it, I described it in terms of how annoyed I was or how disappointed I was that it wasn’t living up to my expectations based on the premise.  I made it nearly halfway through and finally quit because I didn’t care.  I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care what happens in the plot (hardly anything beyond the initial premise had happened by the halfway point, so I had no expectations that anything else actually would), and I didn’t care if I never found out how it ends.  And now I won’t.

I’m rewarding myself by picking up Kindred by Octavia Butler.  She’s a treasure, or she was.  She died around 10 years ago, but her books are SO FREAKIN’ GOOD, and there’s really no excuse for why I haven’t read this one yet, probably her most well known book.  So I’m reading it now and I have no doubt I’ll enjoy it and probably learn something from it.


There’s this book store in Corvallis called The Book Bin.  It’s pretty cool (not as cool as Browsers’ Bookstore right around the corner), but they do one thing that rubs me the wrong way.  After I browsed through the science fiction section, I walked by the mystery section and saw a big sign for General Fiction.  Oh, good, there are a couple of non-genre books I’ve been looking for.  Browsing, browsing…that’s odd.  Fern Michaels, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel – this is the romance section, not general fiction.  Why wouldn’t they just label it romance?  Are they hiding the fact that they have a romance section?  I think I’m offended by that.  Why hide romance?  So then I went looking for the actual general fiction section and oh, no.  No, they’ve named it Literature.  That’s right – we have to disguise the romance section because heaven forbid anyone thinks this bookstore carries those kind of books, and to differentiate real books, we’re going to call them LIT-er-a-ture.  Snobs.

Even the five-foot-tall TARDIS they created out of books can’t win me over now.

They just made it harder for me to buy books. Idiots.

I’m a little bit annoyed with Amazon this week.  My to-read list is a private Amazon wish list.  Any time I hear of a book I might be interested in, I add it there.  I might not buy it from Amazon, I might get it from the library or a store or wherever, but I have one place I always add books.  The list USED to have a sort feature that would let me sort by price (high or low), sort by books with price drops, sort by date added, etc.  A couple of months ago, all those sort features disappeared from the browser version of Amazon.  The only sort feature left was by priority, and since I never prioritized anything, it was not useful to me.  Thankfully, the Amazon app still had the sort features I liked, so EVERY SINGLE DAY I sorted my list in the app by price (low to high), and probably four times a week, a book on my list would go on sale for $.99 or $1.99 (Kindle version), and I would snap it up.

Then this week, the app got updated and hey – the sort feature is gone.  The only thing left is by priority.  Here’s the thing: I have over 400 books on my list.  I am not going to scroll through the entire thing looking for the items that have gone on sale, and that means I’m not going to know about the sales, and I’m not going to buy the books.  (I’ll buy some of them eventually, but not at the rate I’ve been buying them.)  I have plenty to read already on my Kindle (or at the library), so Amazon just updated themselves out of $400 a year from me.

I chatted with a customer service rep, who assured me that some sort of sort feature will be back, but she couldn’t say what and she couldn’t say when, so I’m not holding my breath.  I’m just really annoyed.


Big sigh of relief: Beauchamp Besieged was pretty good!  I don’t think I’ve ever read a Harlequin romance before, but I’m happy to say this one exceeded my expectations.  And there I go, outing myself as a snob.  I guess everyone’s snobby about something, right?  I’m just happy I can honestly tell my friend I enjoyed her book.

White lies are fine, but it’s so much easier to be honest.

Huh.  I don’t know if I actually believe that.  Sometimes honesty is harder, and often it’s unkind.  It depends.  Everything depends.  We live in a morally gray world.  I do, anyway.

From romance to philosophy: it’s a roller coaster around here!

She is mostly dead to me

I just decided not to read another book, but it’s for a good reason!  think it’s a good reason, anyway.  I read (and enjoyed) Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris about eight years ago, so I happily picked up another book by her last week.  I started to read it last night, thought it sounded awfully familiar, and then realized it’s the sequel.  It’s probably not exactly the same story as Gentlemen and Players (as John pointed out, it is called Different Class), but it’s set at the same school in the year right after that book ends, and the main character is the same and you know?  I don’t want to.  It’s another thriller with another mystery about some former student who has it in for the same teacher and while I’m sure it’s good – it’s probably good – I’m out.  Back to the library this book will go.  Instead, I will read one of the cheap paperbacks I have picked up since we got here so I can discard it before we move.  I will be practical, and I will be done with Joanne Harris. Since this will be the second Joanne Harris book I have put down in a row (I gave up on The Gospel of Loki a year ago April), she gets no more chances from me.  Except that I will almost certainly read Chocolat at some point.  I love the movie.  I’d like to read the book.