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.

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!

I could have been cool AND warm

I guess I was paying more attention to the forecast in Kentucky than I was to our forecast because I had no idea it was supposed to snow last night and this morning.  We only got about an inch, but it was coming down when we woke up and that was enough to convince us to skip the gym.  (It shouldn’t be that easy to convince us to skip the gym.)  I had a moment of welcome-back-to-the-east-coast panic (everyone from Texas to Maine got snow last week – it’s not just New England), but then I remembered that this is the year (or maybe next year – we’ll see) that I get real, honest-to-goodness cold weather stuff.

I can’t have the coat I WANT because it sold out in less than 30 minutes the day it came out.

John wants this one.

Columbia made 1,980 of each of these (plus a Han Solo parka we don’t like as much), and even though they were $400 each, they were GONE.  The website said they were totally sold out online, but stores had a limited number, so I called three different stores.  I only got through to one place (in Minneapolis).  The guy said they had one XS Leia and one 2XL Luke left, but “I’m looking at a customer who has them both in her hands right now.”  It was 10:20 in the morning.  The store opened at 10.

John and I are holding out hope that they’ll make more of them someday.  Until then, I’ll just have to be cold in my totally not awesome normal coat.

Portland is weirder than Providence

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Unipiper.  I mean, we hadn’t until we moved to Oregon, so I don’t know why you would have.  In case this is your first introduction, he’s a guy in Portland who plays bagpipes while riding his unicycle.  The Unipiper.  He has a website.

He also made this video.  Cracks me up every time I watch it.  Thank you, Will, for sending it to John!

Supervisors by the numbers

  • I have had 10 bosses in not quite 8 years with the same company.  Well, 9 bosses, since my current boss was my boss a year ago, but I had a different boss in the year in between.
  • 4 of them don’t work for the company anymore.
  • In 2 cases, I got a new boss because they left the company.
  • My shortest period of time working for someone was about 3 months.
  • My longest period of time working for someone was nearly 2 years.
  • 5 of my 9 bosses have been women, but not the past 3.
  • All 9 are older than I am.
  • I have had 3 bosses since I started working remotely (more than 2 years ago).  4, if you count the one who’s my boss again.
  • I’ve had 1 boss I’ve never met in person (my current boss), although that will change in about 3 weeks.

This has been illuminating.  I don’t know what it tells me – maybe that we have a lot of turnover (except that more than half of them still work for the company), or maybe that the company doesn’t know what to do with me, or maybe nothing, and this is just how it goes when you work in one place for nearly 8 years.

Trees and forgery

The most perfect tree is at the end of our block.  It’s like a role model for trees.  See little seedlings?  You could grow up to be this lovely.  But if you don’t, I’ll love you anyway.  (I like trees.)

It’s a nice tree.  After yesterday’s wind and today’s rain, it might also be a naked tree.  Poor naked tree.

From Rhode Island Comic Con this weekend:

There’s a creepy kid behind me, isn’t there?

NO, I AM NOT YOUR MUMMY!

We had a really good time.  Bought a lot of geeky stuff, saw some cool celebrities (I managed not to lose it while walking past Wallace Shawn several times), chatted with some artists – it was fun.  And then I got my credit card back from the bar where I’d left it the night before because I had a tab open when the fire alarm went off and they evacuated the building and when we came back for it they had just locked the doors so we had to come back the next day.  No hassle at that point, thank goodness, but I was half-expecting an issue with proving I’m me since I haven’t gotten my real RI license yet and I’m walking (and driving) around with an 8.5″x 11″ piece of paper as my temporary driver’s license.  I keep expecting someone to look at it and be like, “Nice forgery, idiot, I’m calling the cops.”  I could never be a criminal.

My Halloween post

I got a nightlight for our bathroom last week.  The light switch is as far from the door as possible (because that’s convenient in a bathroom).  It’s in the far corner, on the other side of the medicine cabinet, and it shares a wall plate with the outlet.  It’s a rocker switch, so every time we reach blindly in the dark to turn on the light, we risk shoving our fingers in the socket.  I figured I could solve the dark problem and the outlet problem by buying one of those nightlights that covers the unused socket.  I found these cool-looking clear ones that glow in colors in the dark, and I got the red one because I read that red is less disruptive to your sleep than blue or green. I didn’t take into consideration that a red nightlight might disturb my sleep in other ways.

Now the bathroom glows red like a portal to hell.

Seriously, every time I get up in the middle of the night, and any time I notice the glow down the hallway as I’m drifting off to sleep, I’m half expecting demons to show up.  I’m not sure blue would have been any better – then I’d imagine the not-friendly kind of alien.  And if I’ve gotten green…I don’t know – maybe dark fairies?

I might be replacing the nightlight with baby-proofing outlet covers soon.

Lutheran Insulter

Apparently this website has been around since 2012, but it came to my attention today because next month is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Go here to check out the Lutheran Insulter.

Some favorites of mine:

“It is the old dragon from the abyss of hell who is standing before me!”

“You are a brothel-keeper and the devil’s daughter in hell.”

“You no longer have, as you did several centuries ago, a cunning devil spurring you on, but a palpable blockhead, a crude devil, who in his malice can no longer disguise himself.”

“Your words are so foolishly and ignorantly composed that I cannot believe you understand them.”

My friend Chastity wants to put that last one in her email signature.  She doesn’t think anyone will notice.

Offended?

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.

I want

When we were in California, Erik took us and the kids to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.  Cool museum, lots of stuff to play with, good for kids, but I’m mentioning it mostly because I tried a virtual reality painting program and OH MY GOD I WANT IT SO MUCH.  Why I want it has NOTHING to do with the painting part – I am as bad a virtual artist as I am in the real world – although that part was pretty fun.  You can paint AROUND you, like you’re standing in the middle of the room and painting on the air, and then you can move through it or change your perspective and see if from a completely different angle without moving yourself.  Very cool.  I’m not sure of the point of it the 3D aspect of it once it’s finished, though.  It’s not really 3D unless you have a floor or ceiling projector, and there’s no way it looks as cool in 2D.  Anyway, again, the art part is not what I got excited about.

You can choose from a variety of built-in backgrounds or landscapes or environments or whatever.  The one I spent the majority of my time in was the default one, sort of a reddish flat area with mountains in the distance, dark and dusky.  The girl running the demo suggested I try the space environment and how I wish I’d done that sooner.  As soon as I switched over, it was like I was standing on a clear platform in space, stars and blackness above and below and all around me.  I think there was a planet – I can’t tell you for sure now.  I can tell you that I didn’t want to leave it.  It was incredible.  Like, emotionally incredible and I’m getting a little choked up remembering it.  I have no idea if it was remotely realistic, but now I have something I want.  Not necessarily the painting program, although I’ll take it.  I want space.  I want space in virtual reality.  I don’t need the zero gravity part (although I think it would be cool).  I want to sit on the floor and be able to look in any direction and see stars and planets and galaxies and comets and asteroid belts.  I want to be immersed in it, in the comfort of my own home.

In real terms, I can have it.  VR gear is between $600 and $800.  Not easy, but attainable if I really want it.  (I don’t need a new laptop for a while, right?)  That paint program?  $20.  But the gear is necessary.  I googled a bit to see what space VR programs might be out there already, realistic ones, and I found SpaceVR, a company that is about to launch 360-degree cameras into orbit around earth to provide real images of space to anyone who subscribes to their feed.  The subscription is reasonable, but again, you need the gear.

Here’s my quandary: is it good enough now?  Is it too early in the VR technology cycle to be worth it?  I’ve never been an early adopter.  I’m happy to let other people iron out the kinks before I spend a lot of money on something.  VR has been around for a long time, and it used to really suck.  I’m sure it sucks less now, but how much less?  I don’t say “I must have this” about things very often, so this feels odd.  Comforting that I still feel as strongly about it three weeks later, but three weeks isn’t that long.  I’ll probably wait.

But I really want this.

Must start earlier

It’s night #2 of not feeling the blog thing, and I think I can safely say that waiting until after dinner to write is not a great strategy.  Whatever energy I had during the day is gone, completely, and all I want to do is read and go to bed.

This is the summer of binge-watching, so after we watched the entire season of The Crown (loved), we watched the entire season of The OA (disappointing), then all of Doctor Who season 9 (yay), and now we’ve moved on to Iron Fist, the next Netflix Marvel Comics show.  It’s…okay.  The main character is annoying in his naivete, and overall, it’s definitely the weakest of the Netflix Marvel shows.  Still entertaining, though.  I like how all of the shows are connected.

Oh, hey, we saw Wonder Woman last weekend.  The movie wasn’t great (although it’s the most I’ve ever liked Chris Pine in anything, and it was miles better than the other DC movies), but I felt this visceral enjoyment seeing Wonder Woman kick ass during the fight scenes.  I’d watch it again.

Hey, look, even tired I can babble about TV and movies.  Good for me.  Bed for me.  See ya.

Mystery solved

I figured it out!  No, I don’t have a baby chest-burster lost in my skull (thanks, Michelle, for the image – that’ll linger).  I rode today, and when I ride, I wear a helmet.  When I wear a helmet, I put my hair in a ponytail, and the helmet goes on over the base of the ponytail.  Some days I don’t get the placement just right, and midway through my lesson I become aware of this painful pressure in one spot near the base of my skull.  I forget about it as soon as I take the helmet off, relieving the pressure, but apparently that 45 minutes or so of pressure leaves a lasting sensitive spot.  That must have happened last Friday.  I don’t remember that specifically, but I definitely remember that pain from other lessons, so I’m willing to go with this theory.  My odds of survival are better with this theory.

I got the placement of my ponytail right today – no pain, no fear of aliens.  Well, no pain.

When WebMD just doesn’t cut it

The back of my head, at the base, has been sensitive to the touch in one spot for a few days.  I haven’t fallen or smacked my head on the wall or a low ceiling or a car recently (I have to say “recently” – those are all things I have done in the last year).  Not that I remember, anyway.

I guess this is the beginning of the end.  The aliens that burrowed into my brain and have been hiding for years are close to breaking out.  Although why they’d choose to come out the back of my head instead of through my ears or nose like any self-respecting gross killer parasite, I don’t know.  I’m expecting an explosion of bone and brain so, you know, keep your distance if you want to remain unspattered.  I wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining your favorite outfit.

Customers think they can get away with anything

THREE-DAY WEEKEND IS HERE and I am very happy about it.  I got yelled at by two different clients on Friday, like with actual yelling, and I need a good long break.  The first time was around 7am my time, and with a client I’ve never talked to before.  Apparently, this is how she communicates.  I think she’s from New Jersey.  She wasn’t actually mad, or least wasn’t really yelling AT us – it wasn’t personal.  It was still unpleasant.  The second time was just before noon my time, and it was somewhat personal and it was totally uncalled for and thank everything that is good in the world that Harry (one of our VPs) was on the phone and did not take ANY of that crap from the customer.  It was wonderful, and he’s my hero.  And later, he congratulated me on remaining calm and reasonable throughout the call.  I would like to have him in every client meeting forever and ever, amen.

So. Work is done, I get three days off, AND Monday is my birthday, AND we’re in Portland today for a comic con, and I plan to enjoy every minute of this weekend.

Nerdsgiving

My new book (Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal) is like Pride and Prejudice with a little of magic, and guys, that makes me SO VERY HAPPY.  I’m only 20 pages in, but that’s enough to hook me completely.

John and I are making too much food for two people this Thanksgiving.  Certainly too much food for two people who don’t own a microwave.  We’ll have to use the oven to reheat the leftovers, like savages.  Somehow we’ll manage.

Oh, also, we’re calling it Nerdsgiving (or I am – I don’t think John really cares).  We’re reading, watching Doctor Who, and then after dinner (and after Doctor Who), GAMES.  Probably Lords of Waterdeep, possibly followed by…hm.  Something else we can play with just two people.  Or more TV!  We’ve got comic book movies to watch (re-watch) or maybe Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  (We’re feeling British-y today, which is weird on Thanksgiving, I know, but not weird for nerds!)

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.

All decked out

During my run the other day, I tried to take a picture of trees in fall colors over a still lake with weeping willow in the foreground, but the camera on my phone decided to quit on me and I couldn’t.  You’ll just have to imagine it.  It’s the camera on my old phone, that I pretty much only use for podcasts during workouts, so I can’t really get mad at it.

In other news, it’s John’s birthday today.  He’s wearing the new TARDIS slippers I bought him and they FIT (well enough – they may not be bigger on the inside, but they’re big enough).

tardis-slippers

This house isn’t well-insulated, so his feet get cold.  We can match now – my hands get cold, so I bought these:

tardis-gloves

(They’re fingerless gloves.  I realize that might be hard to tell from this picture.  The little bump by the windows at the bottom is the thumb hole.)

Podcasts are a wonderful thing

Lately (and by lately, I mean all summer long), my workouts have been much more enjoyable because I’ve been listening to podcasts.  I caught up on Welcome to Night Vale in mid-July, right before the live show, and then they went on hiatus, so I had to find something else.  I like the Thrilling Adventure Hour very much (that’s their website, but I download them from here), but I’m not always in the mood for it, and John and I listen to Hello from the Magic Tavern together in the car, so I couldn’t use that.  Someone I follow on Twitter was raving about The Bright Sessions, and it looked interesting, so I gave it a try.  SO GOOD.  The Bright Sessions is about a psychiatrist who only treats “unusual” patients.  Her definition of “unusual” is right up my alley.  I raced through both seasons, and I’m eagerly awaiting the beginning of the next season.  Once I finished The Bright Sessions, to avoid withdrawal before the next season starts, I started another podcast called Ars Paradoxica, about a scientist who accidentally time travels to 1943 while she’s conducting an experiment to do something else.  That one is ALSO great, and the only reason I’m not caught up is that I’m having trouble downloading episodes 12 through 16.  Not everyone streams all the time, podcasters.  So while I figure THAT out, I started a new one called The Black Tapes.  It’s also a fictional podcast (all of my favorite podcasts are fiction ones), but it sounds the most like a real radio show.  A journalist from a fictional NPR-type station starts a series about people with interesting jobs and gets pulled into investigating supernatural events.  The person she works with debunks those events.  It’s a little eerie, but it was the fourth one that really creeped me out (just yesterday), so I might limit myself to listening to those outside on sunny days only.  I’ve heard those will be in short supply in another month.

There’s good stuff out there!

Owning it

IMG_20160818_205404

The other night, John and I went to Will and Christina’s house (new house – they live in Eugene now YAY!) for a friendly game of DUN DUN DUN….Dungeons and Dragons.  Yes, we are great big grown-up nerds, and we had a really good time.  John DM’d it, and Christina did her best to save our butts.

I chipped in by buying themed wine.  We drank this one, and I will be buying it again.  Good stuff.

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We didn’t get to this one, but it looks promising.  I’ll let you know.

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You know, I just took a closer look at the actual bottle, and there’s a picture of a squid on it.  That makes it decidedly less appetizing.  I’ll take the hit, though.  I’ll do that for you.