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Reading in 2020

I spent the last several months thinking I had read substantially less this year than previous years. I guess it was the expected narrative. Everyone was having trouble concentrating and I knew I had started a lot of books I hadn’t finished. It wasn’t till I reviewed my reading log that I realized it wasn’t that I had read a lot less than 2019 but I had forgotten to log most of my reading from May and June. It turns out I managed to read 78 books in 2020, only 2 less than 2019.

The other thing I completely forgot until I started to write my 2020 recap today was that I had set a reading goal for 2019/2020. Given that I had forgotten I had a reading goal, I did reasonably well. Though, there were a couple of areas I didn’t come even close to making my targets. When I made my reading goal, I knew reading 26 YA books was going to be a stretch for me. I only ended up reading 9. Though, I did start a lot more YA than I chose to finish. I read one historical fiction novel but the goal was for two. I didn’t list any in the Librarian Recommended category though I think I may have just forgotten where I got some of the recommendation from. Then there’s literature . . Apparently I just don’t naturally read straight-up literature anymore. So, if I want a stretch goal for the future, literature might be a good one.

Best Sellers
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Biography, Autobiography, Memoir
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Librarian Recommended
Goal: 2
Read: 0

Written by an author from another country
Goal: 2
Read: 3

  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – My favorite parts of this book involved Korede talking about cleaning. It might be weird, but I find discussions about cleaning and precision to be very relaxing. I really, really wish Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, was available as an audiobook. I’m sure it’d be the most soothing read ever.
  • The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – This was a delightfully weird and quirky book. Little tidbits of appalling history were dropped all over the place in between the obviously fictional story.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I really liked Gods of Jade and Shadow but started, and never finished, The Beautiful Ones. This one was kind of in the middle for me. It was interesting, and worth reading, but not really my thing.

Graphic Novels
Goal: 2
Read: 2

Historical Fiction
Goal: 2
Read 1

Goal: 2
Read: 3

Juvenile Books
Goal: 6
Read: 7

YA Books
Goal: 26
Read: 9

  • vN, by Madeline Ashby (2020 pre-pandemic)
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – This turned out to be a re-read which I didn’t realize until I was most of the way through the book.
  • The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
  • Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher – T. Kingfisher is delightful and I love almost all the books she writes2. What’s amazing about this book is she started writing it years ago, way before the baking/sourdough trend that exploded this year.
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – This was the most recent book I read and I really enjoyed it. Stevie is a very interesting character and I loved the description of the eclectic school. My one annoyance was it ends on a cliffhanger. However, I still liked it enough that I’m currently listening to the 2nd in the series.
  • Catfishing on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer (2020 pre-pandemic) – Delightful
  • Girls with Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young (2020 pre-pandemic)

Goal: 2
Read: 0

Goal: 2
Read: 9

Poetry Anthologies
Goal: 2
Read: 3

General Fiction
Goal: 2
Read: 2

  • Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel
  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – I listened to this book while driving down to California. It was a hoot. This book probably falls best under magical realism but it’s shelved in general fiction.

Short Story Anthologies
Goal: 2
Read: 2

Other Books I Read

  • The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – I really enjoyed this book. I’m definitely going to read the next one.
  • Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
  • Generation V by M. L. Brennan
  • Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
  • Changes by Jim Butcher- Part of the Harry Dresden series. While I generally enjoy this series, one of my pet peeves has always been around Dresden’s benevolent sexism. I keep reading the series because the story is good and there are interesting strong female characters. However, usually there are multiple times in a book when I end up grinding my teeth at Dresden’s attitude. However, in this book, I didn’t notice as much teeth grinding. Hopefully that promising trend continues with the rest of the series.
  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” by Ted Chiang
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • Finna by Nino Cipri – A weird but fun novella.
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
  • Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – A fun romance. I particularly enjoyed how it started.
  • How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K Eason
  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – I had to like it for no reason other than the librarians 🙂
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – I have no idea why I picked up this book. Probably because of the whole housewives come out victorious over evil angle. It was an engrossing read. However, the husbands’ treatment of their wives bothered me way move than the ostensible monster of the novel (which is probably what the author intended, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and may have avoided if I realized that).
  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – This is the second romance I’ve read by Hoang, the first being The Kiss Quotient, and it was wonderful.
  • Null Set by S.L. Huang – I had a harder time getting into this book than the first one, Zero Point. However, once I finally did, I enjoyed it.
  • Blood Price by Tanya Huff – This book was originally published in 1991. However, in spite of that, it has aged remarkably well. I really enjoyed reading the book. Personally, I particularly liked that it was an urban fantasy without any romance plotline. I like romance but often prefer it not be mixed with other genres.
  • Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff – After reading Blood Price, I went back and listened to Valor’s Choice, which is the first book in a space opera series. I thought I had listened to this book before. However, I think I must have just listened to some of the ones later in the series because nothing sounded familiar. That said, it was very good.
  • Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher – Another one of my favorite reads from 2020. Kingfisher does macabre romance wonderfully well.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – I loved this one. It was such a nice kind book. This is another book that I bought the audiobook for as soon as I finished.
  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire – I’m not 100% sure I finished this one but I think I did so I’m going to count it.
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – Seanan McGuire tells good stories. This one is no exception but it’s in a very different style than the other McGuire stories I’ve read.
  • Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
  • Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • Sporting Chance by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – Hmm, still not quite sure what to think about this one. Parts were fascinating and parts I got a little bored. I reread Gideon the Ninth before this one and enjoyed it better than the first time. So, maybe this one would improve on a reread also.
  • Demonology and the Tri-Phasic Model of Trauma: An Integrative Approach by Nnm (Good Omens Fan Fic) – This might be the first fan fic I’ve ever read and it was really good. Also long (around 390 pages on my iPad mini). It was recommended on the Be the Serpent podcast. While I did immensely enjoy this story, I’ll probably wait for other recommendations before wading further into fan fc as the immense volume of stories available is very intimidating.
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – This was one of my 2020 favorites. Personally, I feel it’s a YA novel but it’s another case where it appears to be classified by others as an adult book. I waited several months to get it from the library. However, I only got 35 pages in before I bought it from Bookshop Santa Cruz. Then, I finished the book and bought the audiobook so I could listen to it at night.
  • Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk – I really enjoyed this book. It’s a regency romance but set in a fantasy world. Also, in true romance style, there was a HEA3.
  • The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai – I really loved the female protagonist being a tech entrepreneur.
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi – This is the conclusion to the The Interdependency series. It was over-the-top and a ton of fun.
  • Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi
  • The Deep by River Solomen
  • Starship Repo by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  • Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes – Another book I felt could fit into YA. I listened to the audio version which I thought was read really well.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
  • A Pale Light in the Black by K. B. Wagers – A really fun book. Basically, it’s the Coast Guard in space.
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells
  1. Not from my family, mind you, but from some of the especially conservative church members I knew.
  2. The exceptions being her horror novels. I’m sure they’re good but they’re not for me.
  3. Happily Ever After

Work and School from Home: Learning about Racism

I am bad at talking about racism. I never know the right thing to say so I tend to stay silent and watch and listen. I’m also too timid, which I understand is a privilege many people don’t have. However, I feel like my sporadic updates about COVID-19 would be incomplete without acknowledging our additional crisis caused by racism.

I’ve watched COVID-19 magnify existing problems. For example, organizations bad at communication become even worse at communicating. It’s also widening the differences between our socioeconomic classes1 as well as racial groups2, particularly for black people.

Then, police officers murdered George Floyd3. This is too common 4. Protests erupted, including in Seattle.

Calvin and I now share an office. A couple of days ago, while I was reading a Seattle Times article on the protests, I must have made a sound because Calvin asked me what I was doing. I told him I was reading about the protests and he asked me why there was a car on fire. For a moment, my mind went blank. How do I explain?

A while back Calvin and I watched a movie on Netflix called See You Yesterday. We had just recently watched Back to the Future and this movie seemed like a good continuation. The central plot of See You Yesterday is a teenage girl’s quest to change the past and save her brother from being shot by the police. Commonsense Media suggests it’s appropriate for ages 15+. Calvin was 10 at the time we watched it together. I wasn’t sure if Calvin was old enough to see a film with police violence. However, as I was looking for articles about the movie I ran across one, I can’t remember which one, which pointed out that black children don’t have the luxury to be ignorant. So, we watched the movie. It was really good.

So, when Calvin asked me what the protests were about, I asked him if he remembered watching See You Yesterday. He said he did. I then told him that while the movie was obviously fictional, police killing unarmed black people was not, it had happened many times before. The protests were because another murder had happened and people are justifiably enraged.

As I said, I don’t do a good job talking about racism and I’m also deeply ignorant about so much of its impact on people. However, I felt I needed to give Calvin some additional context. When in doubt, I turn to books. So, I started looking for audiobooks that could help explain it to Calvin. Eventually, I ran across a list from The Book Table, an independent book store, that had A Black Lives Matter Reading List. It included Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The reviews were good so I bought it5.

Calvin and I both listened to it. It’s for a juvenile/teen audience so is substantially shorter than the book it’s adapted from, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. As I listened, it reminded me of when I was an adult reference librarian and was asked for basic information about a specific topic. Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to find a book in the children’s area explaining the topic. Stamped is both engaging and informative. I think it gave Calvin and I a lot to think about.

  1. About Half Of Lower-income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due To Covid-19
    Kim Parker-Juliana Horowitz-Anna Brown –
  2. Race and Income Shape Covid-19 Risk: Sph: Boston University
    Samuel lhemdi –
  3. Four Minneapolis Officers Are Fired After Video Shows One Kneeling on Neck Of Black Man Who Later Died
    Dalton Bennett-Brittany Shammas-Katie Mettler-Timothy Bella –
  4. A Decade Of Watching Black People Die
  5. At the time, the library didn’t own the audiobook version. Less than 48 hours later, they currently own 10 copies but there are 47 holds

Reading Goal February, 2020 Update

I’ve been having trouble finishing books recently. I have quite a few half-read books sitting around that I think I’d like if I’d just finish them. However, T. Kingfisher’s newest book, Paladin’s Grace, was released a couple of weeks ago and it was the perfect book at the perfect time. I still like Swordheart a little better but Paladin’s Grace is my favorite for 2020 so far. I bought the ebook and will definitely buy the physical version also when it comes out.

We took a vacation last week during Calvin’s winter break. I started out with another great book, How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse1 by K. Eason, but the others I had pre-downloaded didn’t speak to me. Fortunately, I found a couple of more that were good and even filled in a couple of my goal categories.

Books I’ve finished recently:

  • Bestseller: Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty – This one was a lot of fun. There were several lines I particularly enjoyed in it including:
    Before her booking was “accepted” she had to answer a very long, rather invasive online questionnaire about her relationship status, diet, medical history, alcohol consumption in the previous weeks, and so on. She cheerfully lied her way through it. It was really none of their business.

    This is something I feel we should do more often on the internet.

  • Memoir: Whiskey in A Teacup: What Growing up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits, by Reese Witherspoon – When first envisioned this category I had meant to read/listen to hefty serious biographies. However, it turns out that’s not what I’m in the mood for these days. I have enough serious stuff going on in real life at the moment and don’t need more in my reading life. Like the James memoir, this was nice and chatty. However, it took me a long time to finish, even though it’s a fairly short audiobook.
  • Informational: Ditch the City and Go Country: How to Master the Art of Rural Life From A Former City Dweller, by Alissa Hessler – I have a dream of someday living somewhere my neighbors aren’t right next to me. This book goes a bit deeper into some areas that I’m not particularly interested in, such as raising animals. However, the first section on picking a location had lots of really good things to consider.
  • Juvenile Books: Estranged, by Ethan M. Aldridge – This is a juvenile graphic novel that I brought home for Calvin. I read it after he finished.
  • YA Books: vN, by Madeline Ashby – I found this one via a list. It was definitely gripping and I sped right through it.
  • YA Books: Girls with Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young – I ran across this one via The Book Smuggler’s blog. It’s been sitting on my virtual to be read pile for a while and I finally downloaded it while on vacation. This was another quick engrossing read with a twist that I feel I should have seen coming.
  • Short Story Anthology: The Trans Space Octopus Congregation, by Bogi Takács – I still have an incredibly hard time reading short stories. Each story end takes me out of the world and it’s really hard for me to go back into another world, particularly if they’re completely unrelated. However, there were several stories in this collection I found intriguing and would have liked longer versions.
  • Short Story Anthology: A Very Scalzi Christmas, by John Scalzi – Jaeger got this for me for Christmas, so it’s a really good thing I didn’t end up getting it for him . . . This one generally is a lot more lighthearted than the Takács anthology. As I mentioned, I don’t tend to like short stories. However, I read this while around Jaeger’s family so I wasn’t in an environment where I could really concentrate on a full-length novel anyway.

Current Goal Counts:

Category Goal Number Read
Best Sellers 2 2
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir 2 2
Librarian Recommended 2
Written by an author from another country 2
Graphic Novels 2 2
Historical Fiction 2
Informational 2 1
Juvenile Books 6 3
YA Books2 26 3
Literature 2
Mystery 2
Poetry Anthologies 2 1
General Fiction 2
Short Story Anthologies 2 2
Total 36 16
  1. This feels like a YA book to me. However, SPL didn’t put it in the YA section. Nor does K. Eason, as far as I can tell, consider it YA. So, it doesn’t get to go in that category. I might see if my son might like to listen to the audiobook though . . .
  2. Ok . . . I forgot I had such an ambitious goal in this category. Obviously I need to be reading more YA.

Reading in 2019

2019 isn’t quite over yet and it’s possible I’ll still get through another book or two before the year ends1. However, I think we’re close enough I can safely list the books I read.

In 2019 I read 80 books2:

  • 1 Anthology (though I’m partway through another)
  • 3 Graphic Novels
  • 3 Non-Fiction Books 3
  • 45 Novels
  • 13 Novellas
  • 1 Novelette4
  • 2 Juvenile (one novel and one novella)
  • 1 Poetry book
  • 11 YA Novels

Overall, I feel like most of the books I read were excellent. However, there were two I particularly loved. They aren’t necessary the “best” of the bunch but these are the ones that completely sucked me in while I was reading:

Swordheart by T. Kingfisher
This is my favorite book of the year. It has so many things I love in it: middle-aged woman, snark, practical outlook in life mixed with optimism and a dash of naivete, and a magic sword. I bought the physical book and then bought the ebook. I’ve already re-read it. I desperately want there to be an audiobook version so I can add it to the books I use to help me fall back to sleep. This book makes me happy just thinking about it.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
This was my favorite book published in 2019. I really enjoy mysteries that are set in a science fiction universe.

Books read in 2019:
The Outside by Ada Hoffman
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar
The Princess Saves Herself by Amanda Lovelace
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
Shadowblade by Anna Kashina
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
Witchmark by C.L. Palk
Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown
Once & Future by Cori McCarthy
Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson
Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson
Killer Pancakes by Diane Mott Davidson
Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews
Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
Fair Play by Eve Rodsky
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Wicked King by Holly Black
One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik
Small Favor by Jim Butcher
Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
White Night by Jim Butcher
Giant Days by John Allison
A Very Scalzi Christmas by John Scalzi
After the Crown by K.B Wagers
Beyond the Empire by K.B Wagers
The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
Gods Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather
Paris in Love by Lisa Kleypas
Penric’s Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold
Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan
The Late Show by Michael Connoly
Spaceside by Michael Mammay
Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant
The Armored Saint Myke Cole
Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I Moved to Los Angeles and Worked in Animation by Natalie Nourigat
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Escaping Exodus: A Novel by Nicky Drayden
The Black God’s Drum by P. Djèlí Clark
Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs
Spousonomics by Paula Szuchman and Jenn Anderson
The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin
The Library of Lost and Found: A Novel by Phaedra Patrick
The Poppy War by R. F Kuang
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
Star Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall
Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire
The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire
The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire
Ebony in Onyx by Sharon Shinn
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher
Swordheart by T. Kingfisher
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Children of Blood and Bone my Tomi Adeyemi

  1. Especially since my kids will be with their grandparents.
  2. Assuming I haven’t forgotten any books . .
  3. These are books I’ve read all the way through, not books I’ve referenced specifically sections.
  4. I read all the 2019 Hugo Nominee Novelettes but I’m only considering one for this count because it’s the one read as a hard copy, which I admit is a weirdly arbitrary distinction.

Reading Goal December, 2019 Update

Right after I made my goal I read several books within my goal categories. Then December got stressful and I reverted to comfort books and re-reads.

Books I’ve finished recently:

  • Bestseller: The Late Show, by Michael Connelly
  • Graphic Novel: I Moved to Los Angeles and Worked in Animation, by Natalie Nourigat – I’ve never wanted to work in animation (fortunately) but this was an interesting read and it was particularly fascinating to read the bits about adjusting to moving to LA.
  • Juvenile: The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen – This book was a fun, fast read.
  • YA: Catfishing on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer – This was delightful. It was uplifting and funny even while discussing scary topics.
  • Juvenile: Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher – I bought this one on a whim because it’s by T. Kingfisher and I enjoyed the first paragraph. In the acknowledgements T. Kingfisher says she thinks it’s a juvenile novel and I agree so that’s how I’m categorizing it.
  • Memoir: Paris in Love, by Eloisa James – This book has a nice and chatty tone that I listened to while making suppers.
  • Graphic Novel: Giant Days, by John Allison – This was the start of a series and, if I remember, I’ll read more in the series.
  • Poetry: The Princess Saves Herself in This One, by Amanda Lovelace – Poetry isn’t something I naturally pick up. However, I really enjoyed this one and ended up buying a physical copy.

I’m currently in the middle of reading two short story anthologies so I might be able to cross that goal off soon. However, it’s slow reading because even if I like the individual stories, the lack of an ongoing plot means I don’t feel any urgency to continue after I finish each chapter.

Current Goal Counts:

Category Goal Number Read
Best Sellers 2 1
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir 2 1
Librarian Recommended 2
Written by an author from another country 2
Graphic Novels 2 2
Historical Fiction 2
Informational 2
Juvenile Books 6 2
YA Books 26 1
Literature 2
Mystery 2
Poetry Anthologies 2 1
General Fiction 2
Short Story Anthologies 2
Total 36

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

Reading in 2017

I have read more books this year than any past year in recent memory1. My long commute is a mixed blessing and the upside is definitely my evening reading time.

At my library we have two staff members who are known for reading voraciously. One of the adult librarians thought it would be fun to have a competition with the entire adult departmentment pitted against these two individuals2. To assure victory3, the librarian conscripted every librarian scheduled to sit on the reference desk for the adult team. I do one Sunday shift every 8 weeks and thus was considered eligible to join the adult librarian group. The competition started in April and goes till the end of the year. To count, a “book” must be at least 100 pages long.

I finished one last book today so it looks like I’m going to be at 66 books since April. It’ll be interesting to see what the final numbers for the two teams will be 4. Regardless, I’m happy with the number of books I managed.

I read a lot more novellas than usually which is one reason my numbers are so high. For some reason I’ve always had trouble getting into shorter fiction. The Hugo Awards contain many contegories and I always felt bad that I wasn’t well read enough to contribute to the shorter categories. I’m still lacking in the Best Novelette and Best Short Story categories. However, I’ve read 13 novella length stories5, published in 2017, which is significantly better than normal.

Here’s my favorite 2017 stories so far (in random order):



For 2018 . . .
I stumbled across the website for the Sirens conference. It sounds really fun. I need to figure out logistics but am hoping I can make it there by myself, no kids attached. We’ll see. However, even if that doesn’t work out, I think I’m going to try their 2018 Reading Challege. In addition, I’ll be reading all the Hugo nominees for this coming year as well as trying to keep tabs on the 2018 interesting science fiction and fantasy. Hopefully 2018 will be another year full of good books6.

  1. Probably more than any year since I started working and certainly than any year since I had children.
  2. Contrary to certain stereotypes, not all librarians love to read. Librarianship is really more about information finding than reading skills.
  3. Because yes, there was definite doubt whether the entire department could read more than 2 people.
  4. For comparison, one of the librarians in the other team was at 264 books so victory is definitely not assured for the adult team.
  5. I think they’re novella length based on pages but I don’t know what the word count for each one is.
  6. And while we’re handing out wishes, let’s hope 2018 is a happier year for our country . . .

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.