I’ve forgotten the sound of pages turning

I have a book problem (aside from the addiction).  I love my Kindle, and I have a TON of books to read on it, but I also have a ton of physical books I want to read AND I CAN’T READ THEM RIGHT NOW.  Because of Jack.  The only time I have to read is when I’m nursing him, and I can’t juggle a real book and him at the same time.  Hardcover books are out, of course, and so are trade paperbacks.  I thought I could manage a mass market paperback because I know I can hold it one hand, but I can’t turn the page and hold it at the same time, so there goes that option.  I can hold my Kindle in one hand and still manage to tap or swipe with the same hand to turn the page.  (Thankfully, I can do that with either hand.)  And I really don’t want to read a book on my Kindle if I already have the physical copy.  I’m certainly not going to buy it twice, but even getting it from the library feels wrong.  It feels like cheating to have a book on my shelf that I’ll never touch because I read it in another format.

I could read when he’s sleeping during the day, but so far, either I’m sleeping too or I’m using that time to blog (like right now), sort through the mail and pay bills, make pies (every spare moment yesterday), inventory the baby gifts and make a list of thank you notes to send, do laundry (I should have put that first), shower (should have been second), eat a meal (should have been third)…  You get the picture.

So I keep giving my bookshelf wistful looks when I walk by, but all those books are going to have to wait until I’m not sure when.  When Jack has a more structured nap schedule?  No, I’ll probably have to work during those hours.  When Jack is old enough to read to himself?  Oh, no, I can read those books when Jack is eating solid food and sleeping 12 hours every night.  ‘Cause that’ll happen someday.  Right?

Comfort reading pays off

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

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

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

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

MY LIFE IS SO HARD.

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.

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!

They’re relying on me

Hey, guys.  I love you lots, and I’d love to catch up, but I’m at 88% on the latest Expanse novel, and I can’t put it down.  If I don’t keep reading, all sorts of awful things might happen to my people in there – it’s up to me to make sure they’re safe!  It’s a wonder I got through the workday.

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.

Also, it’s dirty

I saw a snake today on the trail during my run.  I managed not to freak out (out loud), but I did give it a wide berth as it slithered off into the weeds.  It was…little, I guess, but snakes are snakes, and I don’t like them.  This is the problem I have with the outdoors.  I like being outside right up until I’m reminded of all the things that live outside.  Which reminds me: one afternoon a few weeks ago, right after work, I took my book and a bottle of water, and I hiked up to the top of Spencer Butte to read.

I sat there pretty comfortably for nearly two hours, reading my book, ignoring the chatter of the other people on the summit (it was a busy day for hikers), shifting occasionally because sitting on rocks is not that comfortable, and then out of nowhere I heard the a loud buzzing sound.  Like, LOTS of buzzing.  Like the sound of a beehive buzzing, a sound I’ve only heard in the movies and in cartoons.  I glanced to my left and there were a whole bunch of bees flying in a clump, hovering by a rock not one foot away from me.  I suppose that’s what swarming looks like.  I hope I never know for sure.  I got away (duh), and frankly, I’m a little amazed at how quickly and smoothly I moved.  I grabbed my stuff and was 20 feet away, looking over my shoulder the whole time.  I’m super glad they didn’t chase me because there were no lakes in sight.  Seriously, everything I know about swarms of bees comes from cartoons.  And My Girl.

Anyway, that was the end of my pleasant afternoon on a mountain top.  I hiked back down, and before I got in the car, I checked out the map on the information board.  The information board helpfully informed me that the indigenous rattlesnake population was rebounding and they can be found on and under the rocks, so hikers should be careful and definitely not reach under rocks.  Also, mountain lions hang out on the butte.  Well, hell.  I just spent two hours sitting on and among the rocks.  It’s amazing I survived the day.

So yeah – outside is pretty and all, but things that want to kill me live out there, and that’s not even counting spiders and UGH mosquitoes, so maybe I should just stay inside.

Contemplation

Some more thoughts on The Gate to Women’s Country, all entirely non-spoilery.  Or maybe less about this book in particular and more about, well, let me get to that.

I have read a large number of books that left me wanting more when they were over.  More books in a series, more information about the world that was created, more information about the characters or their families or their earlier adventures.  Sometimes I have questions, maybe a mystery was left unsolved, or maybe something mysterious happened in the past that drove a character to do something, but that mysterious thing was never explained.  I usually consider this a good thing, even if it’s mildly (at best) frustrating.  It meant I was fully engaged.  I want to know more.  The author did something right, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get those answers in later books.  I’m not always so lucky.  Robin McKinley is a good example.  Off the top of my head, I can name three books of hers, all stand-alone novels, set in three distinct worlds.  All three books were complete on their own*, but the worlds in those books had histories, the families had problems, and the books were about one event, one adventure, just one snippet of those worlds.  I want to know more about those worlds and those characters.  What was the cataclysmic event that happened to the world in Shadows before the story that was written began?  How did a world that was basically our own turn into that world?  In Sunshine, what is up with the main character’s family?  It’s clearly important to her character, but wasn’t necessary information for the story itself so it’s only hinted at, not included.  I don’t remember having a lot of questions after I read Dragonhaven, but I want more family history AND more dragons, please.

The Gate to Women’s Country falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Everything is explained at the end, even a few things that the very smart main character should have already figured out.  Some of it is explained to the main character, some of it is explained to someone else, but all of it is explained, and I find it very satisfying.  No loose ends.  No open questions (except the reader’s own questions about the future of this civilization, which are totally acceptable).  There’s clarity at the end, the kind that makes you go back and re-read the first few pages now that you’ve been enlightened.  Sheri S. Tepper tends to do that, to lay everything out for the reader at the end, to spell out the things you’ve suspected or point out the things you missed.

I don’t know which approach I prefer.  I like it when things are wrapped up neatly.  I like knowing everything there is to know about a fictional universe.  (There’s a reason I own two companion guides each to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.)  On the other hand, hinting at the richness of another world leaves so much scope for the imagination.  I find it harder to let those books go and move into something else, and I can’t think that’s a bad thing.

*I’m not talking about books without resolutions, like one by an author I really like that is billed as a mystery and that moves like a mystery and HAS a mystery in it but is really just a cover for character development so it ends WITHOUT SOLVING THE MYSTERY.

Like a slip ‘n’ slide but without the rocks in the lawn

Until today, every time I have been turned off by a book, it’s been because of the plot (or lack of it) or the writing. I started reading Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George yesterday, and I’m having a hard time getting into it.  I don’t think it’s the writing – I’ve always liked Neal Stephenson.  I don’t think it’s the plot – it’s a science fiction political thriller.  What’s not to like?  It did start a little slow – we got the main character’s full family history in the first eight or so pages (snooze), but the action picked up after that.

Even with something actually happening, though, I’m not that excited to pick up the book and read, and I think it might be the physical book at fault.  This has never happened to me before.  I know I’ve been reading a lot on my Kindle, but I like physical books.  I like the weight, I like the way the paper feels…and the paper might be why I’m not crazy about THIS book.  It’s smooth.  Like, silky.  Practically laminated, but smoother.  And it’s a heavy trade paperback that barely opens, so I feel like I’m using a crowbar to see the pages.  The very very smooth pages.  I never knew I could be this picky about the physical qualities of a book.

I’m 58 pages in, and I’m giving this one at least 100 pages before I give up.  Maybe I’ll get over it and maybe it’s just that I started it yesterday after watching The Crown all day long and maybe I was just tired and I’ve been working all day and maybe it’s not the smoothness of the pages at all and maybe it’s nothing and I’ll forget all about this in another ten pages if I can just find 15 minutes to focus on reading.

(But when I’m into a book, 15 minutes to focus on reading finds me.)

(Sh. I’m still in denial.)

Every city needs a Powell’s

Of course we went to Powell’s when we were in Portland last Saturday.  No trip there is complete without a visit to Powell’s.  Because I’m still trying to avoid buying THINGS, I only bought one book, but I found a TON of books to add to my to-read list, and I had a couple of interesting conversations with random strangers in the science fiction section about Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid novels and The Wheel of Time.  Not in the same conversation.  It was a good way to spend several hours.

The one book I did buy is Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great: Re-reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I was likely to buy it anyway (it’s Jo Walton – I like her), but I was hooked when I saw she wrote an essay on Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, which was moved to write about when I read it, although I think for a totally different reason.  Jo Walton’s book is a collection of blog posts she wrote for Tor.com, and the table of contents is the best to-read list (or to-re-read, in many cases) EVER.  This may seem stupid, but I’m, like, furiously happy knowing this book exists.

Seriously, I’m a little emotional.

Applying life lessons

Michelle supplied actual wisdom to this website in her comment on my post the other day, and I have decided to apply it to my life.  Life is too short to read books that don’t grab me, so I just won’t.  I did finish my NOW book club book (it was good, it was interesting, I didn’t love it), but the very next book I was supposed to read was for my other book club: Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf.  The blurb wasn’t interesting to me, and the Kindle version was $11.99.  The library had it, but it was out and there was a waiting list (and book club meets in less than a week).  Was it worth $11.99 to me if I might quit after 50 pages?  Not really.  But I joined the book club to talk about books with other readers, and if they introduce me to good books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick out for myself, that’s a good thing, right?  I would feel a little guilty going to a book club meeting without having finished the book we’re talking about, but a) that doesn’t make my opinion less valid (why didn’t I like it?), and b) no one says I have to go that month.

I took my dilemma to John.  Given these circumstances what would he do?  He would find a free download of the book or otherwise look for a cheaper way to get it, that’s what he’d do.  Smart, although not officially condoned by me.  Without going into any specifics (ahem), I did get a copy of it, and I started it with every intention of giving it 50 pages (or in this case, since it’s digital and I know the paper version is only around 200 pages, giving it 20 or 25%) before putting it down.

Who is surprised that I was hooked by the third page?

Some bad book choices

I’m in a mood.  A reading mood, but it’s not the kind of mood that only means I want to read.  This is the kind of mood that means I’m hyper-critical of what I’m reading.  I picked up three books from the library yesterday, all books that had been recommended to me or that had appealed to me on some trip to a bookstore or something.

I put the first one down after 24 pages.   All of the exposition was in dialogue between a brother and a sister, and it was SO. PAINFUL.  They clearly both remembered a thing that happened, but they had to talk through every detail in a way real people would NEVER DO.  It’s like this radio commercial I HATED in Virginia for Warman Home Care (you know, like warm and caring? UGH) where a wife says to her husband, “you know how you’re worried about your dad getting older and living by himself and how he won’t be able to take care of himself but how we can’t do it either?” and every time I heard it, I cringed because NO ONE HAS THAT CONVERSATION!  People use shorthand!  They refer to conversations they’ve had before without going into every detail.  Good writing would remember that and use references like clues to pull the reader in.  This book was like that commercial and it was so irritating.  And then the author tried REALLY HARD to make sure you knew how old the characters are now and were then.  On one page, he said straight out that one character was 33, the sister was two years younger than that character, and the brother was three years older.  Got it.  Okay.  A few pages later, the narration explicitly says that a certain event happened 23 years previously.  At that point, I did the math – brother was 13, sister was 8.  I’m with you.  Then, at the bottom of the SAME PAGE, the brother asks the sister, “so, how old were we when that happened?” and she says, “well, I was 8, so you must have been 13.” OH MY GOD I GET IT.

I quit after that.

I picked up my next book right after that and nearly put it down after seven sentences.  The main character, making dinner at home with his family, was julienning an onion.  The pretentiousness oozed off the page.  Are you a chef?  No.  Is this book about food or cooking?  No.  THEN YOU’RE CHOPPING THAT GODDAMN ONION.  On the next page, we learn he lives in a brownstone.  A page later, we learn that he’s going to his local bar, steps away from his brownstone.  Then he goes to Whole Foods with his canvas bag, which is just blocks away from his brownstone.  Guess what, guys?  Mr. Perfect lives in a brownstone.  I’m kind of glad he got kidnapped.

For reasons, I don’t understand, I’m still reading this book.  I’ll finish it tonight, and I can move on to a book where the Queen is a vampire.  I’m expecting better from the paranormal.

Still trying to do too much

I signed up for another thing.  I couldn’t help myself.  I joined the Legislative Task Force committee within our chapter of NOW.  I am going to try to keep my participation to a minimum, though.  Really.  I mean it.

And now, after talking my head off at that meeting, I have no more words.  I’m going to devote my brainpower to my book.  Book club is next Tuesday, so I need to get cracking.

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.

I did it!

I finished The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry this morning, and I am ready to go to my new book club tomorrow evening.  It was a nice book, sweet, about nice people and a bookshop.  What’s not to like?  After I finished that, I finished Abaddon’s Gate (the book I kept putting aside, through no fault of its own – it was very good), and then I started Court of Fives.  I did all of that before noon today (while hanging out at a coffee shop I can walk to from the house), and then I went to the grocery store, read a bit more at home, ran outside for the first time in 5 weeks, and now I’m making a sweet potato pie to take to Wendy (riding instructor) like I promised I would back at the holiday party.

It has been a very productive day off.