Category Archives: Books

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Reading Goal 2019/2020

For the past couple of years I have loved nominating and voting for The Hugo Awards. While I enjoy it, I also feel like it has consumed my reading life. Particularly in the months right before nominations open I felt like I was trying to cram the best science fiction and fantasy books of the past year. In 2019 I have already read a fair amount of excellent science fiction and fantasy. However, I’m going to take a break and branch out more. I’m still planning on nominating the books I happen to have read and loved but won’t try to be as systematic about it.

Back in 2013 I had a goal to read 36 books across a range of genres1. I’m going to something similar this year, though with minor tweaks in the categories. Here’s my current goal:

Best Sellers 2
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir 2
Librarian Recommended 2
Written by an author from another country 2
Graphic Novels 2
Historical Fiction 2
Informational 2
Juvenile Books 6
YA Books 6
Literature 2
Mystery 2
Poetry Anthologies 2
General Fiction2 2
Short Story Anthologies 2
  1. I just realized this was when Calvin was turning 4 and Julian turned 4 this year. I doubt this is coincidence.
  2. Not romance, mystery, science fiction/fantasy, etc

Hugo Nominations 2016

The 2016 Hugo nominations are in. I don’t have the time or eloquence to say all the things that could be said about them. I am glad that my first year to vote in the Hugos was back in 2014, prior to the successful rabid puppy hijackings. I think fondly of the quality of most of those nominations. The one exception for me is the current novel nominations which I’m pretty happy with this year.

Novel Nominations
I nominated two of the novels that ended up in the best novel category: Ancillary Mercy and The Fifth Season.

Ancillary Mercy was a really fun read. In addition to being fun, it holds up well to being reread and has made it into my night-time reading rotation. 1.

The Fifth Season was a more complicated book for me. At the time I read The Fifth Season I had both a new baby and a 6-year-old child. This made many of the scenes within the book hit especially hard. However, as always, Jemisin’s writing is brilliant and the book is very good.

I have also already listened to/read Uprooted. I’ve enjoyed Naomi Novik’s books in the past but Uprooted didn’t work for me. I suspect I would have had a better experience if I had not started out by listening to it.

I have not read The Aeronauts Windlass but I have enjoyed all of Butcher’s books I’ve read in the past so I suspect I’ll at least be able to get through this new book. I downloaded it yesterday and started listening to it. I loved the prologue but am not as excited by the first chapter. Steampunk isn’t my favorite genre and I’m not particularly into the equivalent of naval warfare. We’ll see how it goes.

This leaves Seveneves which is going to be a problem. Cryptonomicon was the last Stephenson book I managed to finish. I was very, very close to finishing Anathem when I was in the hospital on bedrest for two weeks but didn’t quite make it. However, I really like the premise of Seveneves and I suspected it was going to get nominated this year, by Jaeger if no one else, so I started listening to it back in August. As of today, I’m 49% of the way through. Seveneves getting nominated is putting more pressure on me to actually finish it. Yesterday I stopped listening to it and instead picked up the hardcover that Jaeger left. I put in a solid 30 min of reading last night and made significant progress2.

Novella Nominations
The two novellas I nominated also made it to the ballot: Penric’s Demon and Perfect State. Bujold is one of my favorite authors. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to Barrayar, A Civil Campaign, and The Curse of Chalion 3. I was not surprised that I enjoyed Penric’s Demon.

Perfect State was a more recent read for me. I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, I thought it was via the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List but apparently I misremembered. In any case, I’ve enjoyed the Sanderson books I’ve read in the past. Though, I suspect Elantris will always be my favorite.

I’m definitely going to read Binti and Slow Bullets. I am not certain about The Builders. Among other things, Publishers Weekly review says, “it’s as though Brian Jacques and Quentin Tarantino went drinking one night”. I don’t like Redwall and adding more violence to Redwall wouldn’t make it more interesting for me. If I have time, I’ll probably give it a shot but given its competition I sincerely doubt it has a chance.

Everything Else
Yes, there are probably a couple of good nominations in the remaining categories. Sifting out the dross is going to be annoying. However, like last year, I’m not going to “No Award” solely on principle. Potentially Hugo-worthy nominations will be rated as such and all else will go below No Award.

  1. I listen to audiobooks while falling asleep, and waking up in the middle of the night, to prevent my brain from keeping me awake. This means I can miss significant parts of books when I fall asleep without stopping the audio book first. Because of this, my night time audiobooks are only books I’ve read or listened to in their entirety before. My nighttime reading rotation mostly consists of Pratchett, Bujold, Shinn, and now Leckie.
  2. I know, 30 min of reading doesn’t sound like much but it’s a miracle with my current life of wrangling two kids while prepping to move to San Francisco. This is why I originally tried the audiobook route even though I knew that was a bad idea with Stephenson.
  3. iTunes claims I’ve listened to each 8 times but since these are some of my night books I don’t actually hear the whole thing each time.

Hugo Reading Update

I am almost done with the Hugos. I have decided not to try to read everything this year. However, here are my quick thoughts on what I have read and how I will vote:

Best Novel
1) Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie – This was by far my favorite of the nominated novels. I read it as soon as it came out and really enjoyed. Second novels always make me nervous but this one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed seeing Breq’s interactions with her subordinates and her ship.

2) Skin Game by Jim Butcher – I had a really hard time deciding whether to rank this one or The Goblin Emperor second. Eventually, I decided on this one because I enjoyed it more. While I have read Butcher’s Codex Alera series, I had never read any books in the Dresden Files and was prepared to dislike it as I’m not a huge fan of paranormal fantasy. I listened to the audio version of Skin Game which is narrated by James Marsters. It did a good job of distracting me when I was feeding Julian which I am quite grateful for. It took me several hours to get into the book but by the end I was hooked. I always love an implausible but fun finish.

3) The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison -I didn’t like this book nearly as much as many other people did. There were interesting elements and I did finish it fairly quickly. However, I had a hard time connecting with the protagonist.

No Rank) Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu – I read about half of this book and found many things about it fascinating. I’ve been dabbling with learning Chinese characters and it was quite interesting examining the English sentence structure and word choices in the context of what I’ve learned about Chinese so far. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the plot.

No Rank) The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson – I started out listening to the audio book, gave up, switched to the physical book, gave up and quit. It’s a massive book. At this particular time in my life, there has to be a huge payoff for me to be willing to commit to a very long book. Unfortunately, I didn’t get hooked enough to commit to The Dark Between the Stars. I think I got about 1/3 of the way through before giving up. I don’t particularly like reading books where you have lots of different viewpoints represented. In general, I prefer one strong viewpoint with occasional forays allowed into other people’s minds if it’s absolutely necessary. There were some viewpoints I found interesting but not enough to keep reading about everyone else.

I did not use “No Award” in this category because I felt most of these books had something in them that made them reasonable Hugo potential.

Best Short Story
1) “Totaled” by Kary English – This was the only short story that I really liked. It had a fairly interesting premise.

2) No Award – I did not feel like the other short stories should win.

No Rank) “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli – I liked how ghosts were created in this story but other than that it didn’t really interest me.

No Rank) “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright – I had to read the opening paragraph of “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” several times before it started to make sense to me. I’ve read a lot of Christian fiction and the style felt fairly familiar to me. At first I thought it was a terrible story. Then, I ran across someone on the internet claiming this wasn’t Christian allegory, it was horror. I’m not entirely sure if the reviewer was being serious or not but all of a sudden it clicked and I agreed. However, I don’t like horror and since this is my ballot, I don’t have to vote for it.

No Rank) “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond – Meh.

No Rank) “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa – This one almost made it above the No Award fold. It could be the setup for an interesting novel. However, I didn’t feel the story was particularly interesting in isolation.

Graphic Novel
1) Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt – I really enjoyed this graphic novel. It was a lot of fun and I the appreciated trial and error process Kamala went through both with her super powers and figuring out who she wanted to be.

2) Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch – Another fun story.

3) Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples – I feel a bit guilty putting this at #3 as it’s still a great graphic novel. However, it feels mid-arc and as such was more depressing than I was interested in dealing with when I read it.

4) No Award

No Rank) Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky – This graphic novel had an interesting premise and made some good points about sex in our culture. However, overall the plot bored me.

No Rank) The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid – I did not read the actual book. However, I went to the author’s website and read quite a few of the comics to get a feel for the style and content. Basically, I didn’t find any redeeming aspect to get me over my dislike of zombies.

I’m still planning to vote for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form). I’ve watched all the movies except Interstellar. I just need to find a night where A) Julian goes to bed quickly B) There’s nothing else urgent I need to do and C) I haven’t fallen asleep.

I was originally planning to read the “Best Novella” and possibly some of the The John W. Campbell Award nominees. However, I downloaded the Hugo packet, looked at the files, and couldn’t summon any enthusiasm. Instead, I’ve decided to focus on doing more due diligence prior to nominating stories for the Hugos next year. I’m going to try to broaden my short fiction horizons ahead of time. In addition, there’s several novels I’m looking forward to that will be coming out in the next couple of months. I’m especially looking forward to N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season.

This has certainly been an interesting year for the Hugos but I’m hoping next year can get back to normal.

Discworld Audio Goal

Even though I’ve been very lax recording my progress listening to the Discworld books, I have been making progress. I haven’t been reading them strictly in order since some are proving harder to borrow than others. Books since my last update:

Moving Pictures
Not my favorite. I couldn’t really connect with any of the main characters nor did I particularly care about the plot.

Reaper Man
This one was fun. I think I prefer Death more as a side character but still the story was pretty amusing.

Witches Abroad
I’ve listened to this one before but again really enjoyed it.

Small Gods
Another one that I didn’t really like though it was amusing for a Discworld god to be stuck in the shape of a turtle.

Men At Arms
The City Watch books are among my favorite in the Discworld series. This one did not disappoint.

Interesting Times
Ugh. Rincewind. Not my favorite character. However, it was interesting to see a reappearance of one of the other original Discworld characters.

I really liked most of this one. The Phantom of the Opera spoof was very amusing. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was Agnes’s ending. I’m hoping that she reappears in another book.

The Last Continent
Another Rincewind one . . . Bits were amusing but not something I’d listen to again.

Thief of Time
I liked this one quite a bit. I’m not sure I’ll listen to it again but it was good the first time. I particularly liked Susan. Her ultra-sensibleness appeals to me.

Night Watch
For some reason I thought I had listened to this one before but obviously I hadn’t. This was a really good book to follow Thief of Time. As always, it’s interesting to listen to Sam Vimes talk to himself. I particularly liked learning a bit more about where Vetinari came from.

UPDATED: Hugo 2015 Best Novelette

2nd UPDATE 5/2/2015 – My infant has stopped crying long enough for me to add an official comment policy.

UPDATED 5/2/2015 – Comment policy:
I have never had any aspirations to have a “popular” blog. The purpose of this blog is mainly to keep family and friends informed about my life and interests as well as to double as a personal journal (albeit one the entire world can read). As such, it has never been important to have any policy on allowed comments. Comments were either obviously legit or spam. However, given the controversy around the Hugo nominations this year and my discussion of them, some comments may stray into a gray area.

For those who are new to my blog please be aware that I will not allow comments I feel are abusive, upsetting, or off-topic and I am the sole decider of what constitutes abusive, upsetting, or off-topic. The internet is a lovely place that allows many forums for self-expression including setting up your own blog to disseminate your opinions if they are not allowed elsewhere. That being said, I do enjoy hearing a variety of opinions assuming the opinions can be expressed in a respectful manner.

Because my blog is not popular and most “comments” are spam, all users who have not previously commented go to moderation. This does not mean your comment will not appear, it just means that I have to find the time to manually approve them. These days I have a screaming infant so it may not be instantaneous but usually comments will be approved within 24 hrs.

Now back to the original post . . .

Well . . . I’m still conflicted about what to do with Hugo voting. I’ve read all of the current novelette nominees. If there weren’t any shenanigans in play, this is how I would vote:

  1. “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)
  2. The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  3. No Award

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” and “Championship B’tok” were the first two novelettes I read and they bored me.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was the third story and, as a story, I thought it was much better than the first two I read. The writing was good and compelling. I personally didn’t find the physics a problem because I just put the story in the fantasy category and assumed magic was responsible for the gravity issues. However, the protagonist really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s really hard when a serious relationship ends but I found his level of narcissism very off-putting.

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” was the fourth novelette that I attempted to read. I say attempted because I didn’t get more than two pages in before giving up. The writing style was way too flowery and contrived for my tastes.

Up to this point, I was feeling really good about the novelette category. I could, without any reservations place the three slate stories below no award because I didn’t feel they were good. However, then I came to “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”. I felt this was a really good story. It is by far my favorite of the five options. The story pulled me in from the first paragraph. I got bogged down a tad during the journey to the alien world. However, once they landed it picked up again and had a great ending.

So . . . I’m still not sure how I’ll actually vote. I’ll probably vote in the order I’ve listed above. However, any stupidity that appears between now and when I place my vote may change my opinion.

UPDATED Hugo Nominations 2015

2nd UPDATE 5/2/2015 – My infant has stopped crying long enough for me to add an official comment policy.

UPDATED 5/2/2015 – Comment policy:
I have never had any aspirations to have a “popular” blog. The purpose of this blog is mainly to keep family and friends informed about my life and interests as well as to double as a personal journal (albeit one the entire world can read). As such, it has never been important to have any policy on allowed comments. Comments were either obviously legit or spam. However, given the controversy around the Hugo nominations this year and my discussion of them, some comments may stray into a gray area.

For those who are new to my blog please be aware that I will not allow comments I feel are abusive, upsetting, or off-topic and I am the sole decider of what constitutes abusive, upsetting, or off-topic. The internet is a lovely place that allows many forums for self-expression including setting up your own blog to disseminate your opinions if they are not allowed elsewhere. That being said, I do enjoy hearing a variety of opinions assuming the opinions can be expressed in a respectful manner.

Because my blog is not popular and most “comments” are spam, all users who have not previously commented go to moderation. This does not mean your comment will not appear, it just means that I have to find the time to manually approve them. These days I have a screaming infant so it may not be instantaneous but usually comments will be approved within 24 hrs.

Now back to the original post . . .

I am groggily looking up from postpartum land to consider the Hugo nominations. I have no intelligent commentary on them that hasn’t already been said better by someone else. Last year was my first year nominating and voting for the Hugos (via a supporting membership). It was a very interesting experience and I was exposed to a lot of material I would never have read otherwise.

This year my husband and I are contemplating going to Sasquan. However, we’re not entirely sure how well this will work out towing along a 6-year-old and an infant. Plus, the Hugos are obviously going to be weird this year which is very annoying. Regardless of whether or not we actually attend, I’m sure we’ll at least get supporting memberships again.

As far as voting, I’m going to read as much as I have time for and can easily get. I’ll certainly read all the novels and probably work my way down similar to last year. At least this time I don’t have any pressure to try to read an entire fourteen book series 🙂 As far as using “No Award”, it’s a slippery slope. At this point I think I’m going to try to judge the works on their own merit and use No Award to signal when I don’t believe a particular work should get a Hugo. Probably not the perfect choice but I’m not sure there is a perfect choice this year.

I’m really hoping that the Hugo packet this year is fairly comprehensive as a lot of the shorter fiction isn’t easily available. With very rare exceptions, I only buy books after I’ve read and loved them so I won’t be buying anything simply to be able to read it before voting. For my reference, I’m linking to where I can borrow the various works that are available via the public library system.

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)

  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)

  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)

  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books) – Worldcat

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)

  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press) – Worldcat
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts ( – Part 1 and Part 2
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group)) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat
  • Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)

    • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Worldcat
    • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
    • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
    • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat
    • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America) – High Plains Library District, Flatirons Library Consortium, Prospector, Worldcat

    The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
    Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

    Terry Pratchett

    Terry Pratchett has died. His books, along with other authors, helped me survive Calvin’s first couple of years mostly sane.

    I came to Pratchett fairly late. I think the first book I listened to, Monstrous Regiment read by Stephen Briggs1, was around 2006. After my son was born in 2009 I spent hours and hours walking around the neighborhood listening to audio books while praying that the walk would put my son to sleep.

    This year, when I decided to get pregnant again, I created a list of go-to comfort audio books I could listen to in case I ended up on bed rest again2. I was extremely fortunate to avoid bed rest. However, I still ended up listening to a lot of Pratchett during my first trimester while I was laying on the couch doubled up with nausea. More recently, I’ve been listening to his books while I fall asleep to help stop my worrying about everything that could go wrong with pregnancy/birth/infancy. There’s something very grounding in Sam Vimes’ outlook on life.

    I haven’t read every Discworld book. All except the newest ones can be tricky to get via audio3. However, of the ones I have read, these are my favorites:

    On the of chance you haven’t read any Pratchett and are interested, this graphic provides a pretty good introduction to the major Discworld themes. Personally, I would suggest starting with The Watch Novels as I think they’re the most consistently written5. I feel Pratchett’s writing improved a great deal the longer he wrote and, in general, the later books are much better than the earlier ones.

    I am selfishly sad there will be no more Discworld books with their wonderful blend of humor, satire, and acceptance of the way people are6.

    1. With all the Pratchett audio books if you decide to buy or borrower them, make sure you get the unabridged version. Almost all of them of narrated by Nigel Planer, Stephen Briggs, or Celia Imrie. Unfortunately, for the older books, the easiest audio edition to purchase are often abridged.
    2. In my experience with bed rest last time I had a hard time reading but was able to listen to audio books. In fact, during my 2 week stint in the hospital I started, and almost finished, the audio version of Anathem which is 32 hrs and 27 min
    3. Though Friday I went on a buying spree when I discovered if I buy the Kindle version of many of the Discworld books they’ll currently give me a screaming deal if I add on Audible narration. Many of the books can be had for under $10 buying both the Kindle and the Audible version together.
    4. My very, very favorite scene in the series is in this book and it involves a dramatic moment towards the end when Sam Vimes reads his son a bedtime story.
    5. I would not recommend starting with The Colour of Magic. It is the first book in the Discworld series but I found the first couple of books to be kind of random. A lot of amusing anecdotes that kind of get pulled into a plot.
    6. Actually, there is one more Discworld book that will be released later this year, The Shepherd’s Crown which is part of the excellent Tiffany Aching YA series.

    Hugo Nominations So Far

    As I’ve mentioned before, baby is taking up so much of my thoughts I haven’t been reading nearly as much as usual. However, the upside is I’m reading a bit more short fiction than normal. Below are my Hugo nominations so far. However, I might manage to read a couple more short stories between now and closing time so it might change.

    Best Novel

    I would add The Martian by Andy Weir except from what I understand, it isn’t actually eligible since it was successfully (?) self-published first.

    Best Novella

    Best Novellet

    Best Short Story

    The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

    Hugos, Au Pairs, Babies, and Neil Gaiman

    Yes, I’ve been very bad at posting. Also, I’ve read almost no books since Christmas. The exceptions are a couple of baby-related non-fiction books. Most of this is because I’ve been going to bed about the same time as Calvin. This is proving problematic for Hugo nominations.

    Speaking of Hugo nominations, at the moment there are three novels I’m going to nominate: Ancillary Sword, The Martian (which may or may not be eligible??), and Lock In. My thoughts on these three novels mostly mirror Jaeger’s but I suspect I liked Lock In better than he did just because I read mysteries more than he does. There are several more I feel like I should read before nominations close but I’m not sure what the odds are.

    I have been listening to audiobooks but mainly as a way to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. There’s so much stuff going around in my head about baby that it would be very easy to spend the whole night panicking/planning. Fortunately, the audiobooks are working out wonderfully. I start the audiobook and within about 10 minutes I’m out. Unfortunately, the audiobook keeps going. I really wish I could hook it up to some sort of wearable that would shut it off after I was obviously sleeping. I’ve only been listing to old favorites, mainly books by Bujold and Pratchett.

    So, what has actually happened in my life for the past month? The most exciting thing really is what hasn’t happened. I’ve passed the infamous 32 week and 2 day mark without going into preterm labor with this baby. I’m now well into week 33 and still feeling pretty optimistic about my chances of making it to full term.

    Since I did not go into preterm labor at the 32 week mark, I did make it to my church baby shower this time. Heidi, who hosted the shower, did a huge amount of work and it was a spectacular shower. We also got a lot of much-needed items. This week I’ve been going through the list and figuring out the remaining items we know we’ll need and the best place to get them. Things are coming together. The one thing I’m stuck on is the changing table. You will find countless websites saying that changing tables are useless. I beg to differ. While it is true I ended up changing Calvin on all sorts of surfaces, in the middle of the night it’s really nice to have a changing table next to the crib where you know everything you need is in a specific place. My first thought was to go for Ikea’s Sniglar changing table. It’s very basic and doesn’t cost too much. The downside is it has very little storage and, for some reason, Ikea is no longer selling the changing pad that fits it. It is very small so standard changing pads don’t fit. My next thought was to repurpose some of the cubicle pieces we have lying around the house. We could use a standard changing pad on the desk and could fit diaper pails and garbage underneath the desk. In addition, we could hang additional storage baskets from the cubicle. However, Jaeger seems dubious about this solution. So, that’s one item I’m still wrestling with.

    Jaeger and I are also seriously looking at getting an au pair. We’ve had two interviews with potential candidates so far. I think we can see the clear advantages but we also find the concept a bit intimidating. On the other hand, it’s less intimidating than actually moving to China/Taiwan so it might be good practice for us. I think what’s particularly hard for us at the moment is trying to bridge language, culture, and time zone issues to figure out exactly how to properly screen and select an au pair from China. We’re still working on that.

    Back to baby, he’s been head down and in perfect labor position since at least week 28. This is good but a bit uncomfortable as he was firmly planted against my bladder. I went to the dentist’s office a week ago Friday for my annual six month checkup. The dental hygienist leaned me back in the chair and I actually felt baby detach and float “down” toward my ribs. When I went to my OB appointment last Tuesday she confirmed that he had moved and was now in breech position. My next appointment will be at 36 weeks at which point my OB will check and see if he’s still in the breech position. If so, I’m looking at a scheduled cesarean. My OB says she won’t try an external cephalic version (where the OB tries to change the baby’s position from the outside) because of my prior cesarean due to worries that it could result in a uterine rupture1. After my latest ultrasound and the comprehensive Boulder hospital tour I had been strongly leaning toward attempting a VBAC. However, this changes things again so I guess I’ll just get to wait and see.

    Yesterday, Jaeger and I went to a Neil Gaiman signing in Fort Collins. We’ve been to two Neil Gaiman events before. The first one was back in 2005 at the Tattered Cover. Gaiman spoke a bit and then started signing books. We had to wait a couple of hours but were able to wander around the bookstore in the mean time. The second time we went to a Gaiman event was 2008 in Boulder. He wasn’t doing any personal signing but had pre-signed books available to buy. This time was only going to be a signing, no speaking. The Old Firehouse Bookstore had won a contest to have him do a signing of his new book, Trigger Warning, due to selling the most copies of his last book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My understanding is this is the only promotional stop he is making for this book.

    Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author and an amazing library supporter but his adult fiction isn’t my favorite. I much prefer his juvenile books. However, both Jaeger and I bought copies of the newest book explicitly so we could each have 3 additional books we brought from home signed. I was particularly interested in getting The Sleeper and the Spindle autographed which has both Gaiman’s great storytelling and Chris Riddell’s fantastic art.

    The signing started at 4pm and Jaeger and I left home a little after 2:00pm. I arranged for Jaeger’s mother to watch Calvin while we were gone. I did tell her I didn’t know how long the signing would last but we’d probably be back a little late. We arrived at the bookstore about 3:30pm and the zooish situation we were walking into quickly became apparent. I mean, we knew it was going to be a zoo but I think you had to be there for the reality to sink in. At 3:30pm, the line already snaked around several alleys and streets. We ended around 300 meters from the front of the line. The line continued to grow for at least the first several hours. I don’t know how long it ended up. Not surprisingly, the line did not progress particularly fast. Fortunately, the weather was amazingly good for February. Possibly it was too good. Jaeger didn’t bring a coat and I only brought a thin coat. This was fine for the first couple of hours. As I was standing in line, it occurred to me that standing for several hours in line while pregnant can be problematic. For instance, there isn’t a large quantity of bathrooms facilities available.

    About an hour and a half from when we first joined the line I took a hiatus and went to a cafe. I bought some coffee cake for Jaeger and myself (I wanted to avoid liquids) and used their restroom. As it got darker, it got colder. Jaeger had it worse at first due to having no coat. I think about 3 hours in Jaeger left to get coffee and try to warm up a bit. It kept getting colder. Another hour or two later Jaeger left line to go get food from Chipotle to bring back for supper. By this point it appeared we were nearing the “home stretch.” That is, we finally were in the parking lot next to the bookstore. However, the line slowed down so we made very little progress over the next hour. By that point I was also shivering and the shivering was bringing on constant contractions. I was starting to wonder if I was going to need to bail due to baby reasons. I had a horrendous vision of almost making it to Neil Gaiman and having to abandon the whole thing due to my water breaking or something. There was a Starbucks within a block so I took a break. I went there, ordered some hot chocolate, and sat down inside a somewhat warm store for a while. When I got back the line had barely moved. Jaeger and I tried to huddle together for warmth but the size of my belly made that extremely hard. Eventually, we got to the door and then the line stalled again, within sight of the warmth within the store.

    We finally got into the store and met a bookstore employee about 7 hours after we first joined the signing line. It was a little before 10:30pm when we were greeted by the first bookstore employee. He went through the standard spiel about how many books could be signed and then he noticed I was pregnant. He looked somewhat aghast and called over another employee to shepherd us to the front of the line. The second employee apologized continuously for not spotting me earlier in the outside line. Jaeger had explicitly told me to wear something that made me look pregnant but just the prior week someone had told me it looked like I was harboring triplets so I didn’t think there was any way to avoid looking pregnant. Jaeger suggested, as the employee herded us outside and around to the back entrance, that next time I needed a t-shirt that said “I’m pregnant” in large letters with a couple of neon signs to emphasize that point. The store employee agreed that would be helpful for “next time.” You may think that skipping line at that point was fairly pointless. However, the line in the store would have taken at least another half hour, quite possibly more. While I would not have asked to skip to the front of the line, I was extremely grateful they let us.

    Jaeger and I had each brought three books from home as well as the new book we got at the store. So Gaiman was signing four books each but due to time constraints he was only personalizing one. I decided to get Fortunately, the Milk personalized for Calvin. I had explained the concept of author signings to Calvin and he seemed fascinated by the idea. Neil Gaiman was amazingly coherent when I got to him. I really have no idea how he does it. At that point I was almost completely incoherent but he still was able to make excellent small talk and mentioned that Chu’s Day at the Beach was going to be out in a couple of months and the plot was “starting to get complex”2.

    We left Fort Collins and I texted Jaeger’s mom to let her know we were finally on our way home. Sometime around 9 she had taken Calvin back to our home and put him to bed. We got home a bit after 11:30pm. We were lucky. Gaiman didn’t finish at the bookstore until 3:12am. His patience and endurance are amazing. In retrospect the whole thing feels like something only college kids would do. I can’t believe we actually stood in line that long. Possibly we were just trying to recapture the feel of freedom before 2.1 changes our life again 🙂

    UPDATE: Here’s the picture from Old Firehouse Books’ Flickr account proving I was actually there.

    1. I have found some people claiming the risk of a uterine rupture with ECV and a prior cesarean is unlikely. However, given I had such a good cesarean with Calvin, I’m not interested in the risk and am not going to push the issue with my OB.
    2. I had the 2nd Chu book in my stack of books to sign which is why he mentioned it.

    Book Purchases

    I went on a bit of a buying spree on Book Depository1. I first heard about Book Depository from a romance listserv I subscribed to many years ago and forgot about it till we wanted to get Calvin the complete Thomas the Tank Engine Collection2. That purchase was a while back but every so often I’ll buy from there if the US edition is unavailable or is substandard.

    A couple of weeks ago Jaeger forwarded me a Guardian article written by Chris Riddell about his latest book, inspired by Ada Lovelace. While in San Francisco we had picked up Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, which I loved3, also by Chris Riddell. So, the combination of an Ada Lovelove inspired heroine created by Chris Riddell was an instant buy for me.

    Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse did not appear to be available in a physical format in the US. So I traveled over to Book Depository and immediately ordered it and the sequel, Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. The books arrived about a week ago and we’ve already read through both of them with Calvin. They’re a great deal of fun. Calvin enjoys them, and the wonderful illustrations, but there’s also a ton of subtlety and puns that makes the books fun for adults to read also (it’s always nice when we can stand the books Calvin wants us to read to him).

    Several days after I had ordered the Goth Girl books, I ran across another mention of Riddell. (I can’t remember where I saw it but this Guardian article provides a nice summary.) He had illustrated a short story of Neil Gaiman’s called The Sleeper and the Spindle. Once again it didn’t appear readily available in the US so I off I went to Book Depository. It arrived yesterday. This one I haven’t read to Calvin, mainly because I think it’s too old for him to get much out of. However, the story is great and the illustrations are also wonderful. I’m not 100% sold on the ending but I do appreciate it straying from the expected.

    I’ve also read a couple more books for my Children’s Reading Goal.

    Jinx, by Meg Cabot – Jinx has problems at home so she goes to stay with her prosperous aunt and uncle in New York City. Jinx is known for being clumsy and getting into trouble so she’s not terribly surprised when Tory, her female cousin, appears to hate her on sight. Though, possibly she didn’t expect things to deteriorate quite so far.

    An easy YA read with a touch of supernatural elements.

    The S.O.S. Files, by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers – A teacher asks his class to all write a story about a precarious situation they’ve been in. Each chapter is one student’s story.

    This is a juvenile book that is billed by the Publishers Weekly Review as a good book for reluctant readers because of its short format. I’m obviously not the audience for this book but I could see a younger kid enjoying it quite a bit.

    Gloria’s Way, by Ann Cameron – This juvenile book feels a bit like a short story collection except they’re all about one girl: Gloria. The stories talk about Gloria dealing with typical issues such as jealousy when her best friend is friends with someone else, what to do when a friend isn’t being nice, etc. It’s very short, I was able to read it during Calvin’s most recent piano lesson. The stories are nice and I’ll probably read it to Calvin.

    The one other book I’ve read recently is The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. Ceony Twill wants to be a metal magician but, in spite of being top of her class, she’s forced to apprentice as a paper magician. At first very disgruntled she slowly learns to appreciate her teacher. Then, someone from her teacher’s past comes back to haunt him and it’s up to Ceony to make sure the paper magician survives.

    I picked this book up because I needed a book to read but one I could finish quickly4. At 224 pages, The Paper Magician felt safe. I read it all in one weekend day. I like the both the setting and the magical system. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of Ceony, she seemed a bit whiny and purposefully dense, but she grew on me. I’ve got the next book on hold.

    1. A UK book seller that will ship books all over the world for free.
    2. For some reason, the US edition only had about half of the stories. Also, I was amused to note that Sir Topham Hatt is actually called “The Fat Controller”.
    3. More, I’m afraid, than Calvin who the book was ostensibly bought for.
    4. The next two weeks are going to be my make/break weeks at work. We’re either all going to survive the ILS migration, or we’re not.