Category Archives: Books

Favorite Books

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.

More Books

Tomorrow we have a new library opening so I spent most of today testing making sure the new location in the catalog is working correctly. I already had most things setup but ran through more extensive testing today. For some reason, requests still aren’t working on the patron side (staff side is fine which is really weird). I suspect it requires restarting some services so I have to wait till the libraries close at 9pm before troubleshooting some more. As a result, I have to stay awake past Calvin’s bedtime.

Pre-pregnant I usually went to bed around 9:30. In the first trimester, I took a nap right after supper and then would wake up just enough to toddle up to bed. Now I’m splitting the difference and, when work doesn’t interfere, have been going to bed around 8pm. However, I’m still finding some time to read.

Eric, by Terry Pratchett and Read by Stephen Briggs – Rincewind once again happens into a mess when a teenager attempts to summon a demon and gets Rincewind instead. Even though Rincewind isn’t a demon he seems to be able to “fulfill” the boys wishes, though perhaps not the way the boy would have wished.

I didn’t expect to like this book, and it isn’t my favorite Pratchett, but it was more amusing than I expected. I particularly enjoyed listening to Eric and Rincewinds escapades through the levels of hell. It brought back memories of college English classes (the books we read, not the class itself).

The Clocwork Dagger, by Beth Cato – Octavia Leander is a very gifted medician. After the exhaustion of healing wounded soldiers, Octavia is ready to settle down in an idyllic village. However, first she has to get there. The only practical method of transportation is airship but strange things keep happening and it’s starting to appear that someone is trying to assassinate her.

I’m not a huge steampunk fan. However, I enjoy a good story and this book provided that. Unlike a lot of steampunk, this one isn’t set in our world. It’s obviously a different universe/setting. I found the universe to be interesting. A weird mixture of scientific reasoning and faith. There was a romantic element in the story but it didn’t interest me as much as the general world building.

God’s War: Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 1, by Kameron Hurley – Nyx lives in a country that has been at war with its neighbor for decades. No one seems to know exactly why the war started but it certainly hasn’t been helped by theological differences between the two nations. Nyx use to be a Bel Dame, a respected and state sanctioned bounty hunter. However, she messed up and now has to scrape by on whatever jobs she can get, no matter have unreputable and risky.

Kameron Hurley is also the author of Mirror Empire, the book I had such conflicted feelings about. However, God’s War was a lot more comfortable of a read for me. It’s still really grim and Nyx has plenty of flaws. However, I found Nyx to be a much more sympathetic character than any of the characters in Mirror Empire.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell – Dr. Judy Melinek always wanted to be a surgeon. However, after examining the toll her surgical residency was taking on her, she quit. After a break, she starts training as a medical examiner in New York. The book details her first experiences and training as a medical examiner. There is also a chapter detailing Dr. Melinek’s experiences examining victims from 9/11.

I don’t know why I picked this book up. I almost never read memoirs. Actually, I rarely read non-fiction unless it’s related to whatever obsession I’m currently working on (parent, pregnancy, finances, etc). However, for some reason I put this on hold via the library and actually read it once it came in. I found it a fascinating read. Detailed without being overly gory (at least for me). The authors also manage to insert a nice amount of humor in between the grimmer sections.

Recent Reads

Work is getting exciting. My migration is less than a month away so I’ve been working more than usual. I’m not explicitly spending dedicated hours working more1, I am stuck at a strict 32 hrs/week, it’s more a matter of me distractedly answering important data migration questions in the midst of making supper.

All that being said, I’ve actually gotten a fair amount of reading in since I started feeling better in August. All things considered, I’m not a harsh critic when it comes to most books I pick up2. Provide an interesting female heroine and you’re almost guaranteed an automatic 4-star from me. However, it’s much rarer that I love a book. So, I’m been feeling particularly lucky recently.

The Martian, by Andy Weir – This is hands down the best hard science fiction I’ve read for many years. Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, is on the third mission to Mars. The trip goes well until an accident and emergency evacuation leave Watney stranded on Mars, and presumed dead, by his crew mates. Watney has no communication equipment to report his survival back to Earth and must find a way to survive and relay his survival to NASA.

This was a very well-written book. I heard a lot about it but was pretty dubious going in. I mean, how interesting can it be to follow one guy stuck on Mars? However, Weir pulls it off brilliantly. The book reads like an epic love story to engineering. I read it in one sitting and then told Jaeger he had to read it. He did and also really enjoyed it.

As an aside, there may be a movie based on the book coming out in 2015.

Lock In, by John Scalzi – In the near(?) future a virus sweeps the world causing 1% of those infected to experience “lock in” where their minds are still functional but their bodies no longer respond. Governments throw money at the problem and an industry springs up to allow those that are locked in to live fairly normal lives. Chris Shane, from a prominent family, is one of the most famous locked in people. However, Chris doesn’t want to be a trust fund baby and chooses instead to become an FBI agent. Chris’ first week on the job turns out to be a doozy and requires learning to deal with a jaded partner while solving several rather sensational murders.

This was a very satisfying read. A good science fiction angle mixed in with a very nice mystery. Up to this point I’ve only read a couple Scalzi books. They were fine and amusing but didn’t really make me inspired to pick up more. The main reason I read Lock In is because Jaeger reads a lot more Scalzi than I do and we picked it up when we went to Scalzi’s book signing in Denver. It was just sitting around the house so one day I picked it up and started reading. I can’t remember if I actually read it in one day but I did breeze through it pretty quickly.

Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie – Against all odds Breq survived her experiences in Ancillary Justice3 She grudgingly agrees to go on a mission for the Lord of the Radch, mainly because the mission sends her to a station where the sister of Breq’s former captain lives. Once on the station, Breq unerringly sniffs out trouble and decides to deal with it.

Second books always scare me. I’ve had many, many experiences where the first book was great and the second book was only ok. However, this book was also fantastic. It’s a slightly different feel from the first book but still adventure-packed. I was particularly impressed by how well Leckie did multiple viewpoints. I would have expected the way she did it to be confusing but it just worked. The end also seemed appropriate. I’m hopeful there may eventually be a third book.

One note: This book is published by Orbit, a division of Hachette. Being published by a division of Hachette, it’s receiving the same treatment from Amazon as most Hachette books that aren’t authored by a politician who could possibly do something if they were convinced Amazon is a monopoly. Anyway, given how much I enjoyed Ancillary Justice, I would have bought this book anyway but who knows, I might end up buying another copy or two and then figuring out what to do with it4.

Other books I’ve read recently:

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry – The girls of Prickwillow Place, a Victorian boarding school, have various reasons for preferring school to their homes. Thus, when their unloved headmistress and her brother die, they face a problem. They solve the problem by attempting to bury their headmistress and her brother in the backyard and see how long they can convince the community the headmistress is still alive and supervising their education and virtue.

This was quirky and fun. It’s a YA book but doesn’t have a lot of the love angst that can make some annoying. Style-wise, it reminded me a bit of Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, though without the whiff of magic.

The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley – I don’t know how to summarize this book so I’ll just copy the overview on Hurley’s website:

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked uniting a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

I expected to adore this book and didn’t. I heard a lot of positive things about this book and was sure I would like it. After all, how could I not love a book overflowing with strong women? It turns out that I don’t like reading about sociopaths, which this book appears to have an abundance of. Truthfully, that’s not fair. I think there’s really only one woman who I’d consider a straight-up sociopath though the rest are fairly dubious. There was one scene where I almost put the book down and walked away. Truthfully, if it had been a man treating his wife that way, I would have put the book down. I feel fairly conflicted that I kept reading it anyway.

The book is a very good book, it’s just one that I find distasteful. Which isn’t to say I regret reading the book, at least not exactly. I’ve heard various people at different times in my life opine that the world would be a better place if run by women. I strongly disagree with this. I believe that with power comes the potential for abuse of power and women are just as likely to do that as men. I think it’s fair to say that in fantasy women either get romanticized (too good to be true) or marginalized most of the time. Hurley does not fall into this trap.

On a related note, Kameron Hurley won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work for her essay ‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative (also available in audio format from Podcastle).

Scale-Bright – Julienne’s newly discovered aunts,Hau Ngai and Seung Nog, are famous immortals. Julienne herself is delighted to find family. However, other immortals try to take advantage of Julienne’s fragility in order to wring concessions from Hau Ngai and Seung Nog.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew was nominated for the “not a Hugo” award this last year. However, she only had short stories, which are really hard for me to read, and I ran out of time and never read any of them. That being said, I kept hearing rave reviews about her short stories. So, when I heard she had a novella coming out I requested my library buy it, and they did. As promised, the story was lyrical and entertaining. It’s set in Hong Kong and made me a bit nostalgic for our short holiday there a couple of years back.

Ghost Train to New Orleans, by Mur Lafferty – In the second book in The Shambling Guides series, Zoe Norris is working to put together a tour book of New Orleans aimed at supernaturals. Since starting her new job she’s became more and more enmeshed with vampires, zombies, and other non-humans and has fewer human friends. It doesn’t help Zoe’s nerves that she smells like food to most of her colleagues. Zoe spends most of the book trying to focus on her job, avoid being eaten, and save her boyfriend.

I read the first book in the series and enjoyed it. However, I liked this one more than the first one. I think it’s because the climax didn’t feel as jumbled to me. Anyway, it’s a fast fun read.

  1. Well, except for that night I stayed up till midnight tweaking our new OPAC. III is known for having a “one right way” to do things and our library also has firm opinions about how to do things. These two visions are not always the same thing. I was feeling very, very constrained by my customization options until another sys admin told me I could link to the JQuery library in the “custom header” and then could magically do many things I couldn’t before. I don’t think this is the right way to do this stuff but since it’s the only way I have, I’ll take it.
  2. Though, of course, I only pick up books I think might interest me.
  3. If you haven’t read this book, go read it. It’s a fantastic Space Opera. It won the Hugo Award,Nebula Award, BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award.
  4. If there was a DRM-free version, I’d definitely buy the eBook version of this in addition to the hard-copy. However, I’m not going to buy it from Amazon and I don’t feel like going to the trouble of figuring out how to strip the DRM off any of the other vendors at the moment.

Pratchett Goal Update

While being laid low with morning sickness I stopped reading. It was too hard to read while curled into a ball moaning. However, I did manage to get through quite a few audiobooks. For the most part, I listened to comfort reads where I already knew what had happened so it wouldn’t matter if I dozed off in the middle. However, in addition to the comfort reads I also ended up listening to quite a few Discworld books

Equal Rights, read by Celia Imrie – Due to a careless mistake, a wizard leaves his staff to the newly born eighth child of an eighth son which allows the child to become a wizard. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize the eighth child was a daughter, named Esk, instead of a son. Of course, women can’t become wizards which provides a quandary for those around her. Granny Weatherwax reluctantly tries to train her to be a witch but it doesn’t take.

I’ve read this book before and, like before, enjoyed it. It’s not my favorite Discworld book but it’s pretty amusing and offers a great introduction to Granny Weatherwax.

Mort, read by Nigel Planer – Everyone agrees that Mort is hopeless. Fortunately, Death has decided he needs to take an apprentice and chooses Mort. At first this works out remarkably well until Mort tries to change history for the sake of a girl.

I found this one amusing. I particularly liked the scenes where Death decides to take a vacation. I didn’t have much patience with Mort but the supporting cast was a lot of fun.

Sourcery, read by Nigel Planer – An ex-wizard uses his son to exact revenge on the wizards that threw him out of Unseen University. Chaos ensues and naturally Rincewind gets drawn into the center of it.

I think I’m going with “meh” on this one. Rincewind isn’t my favorite character. However, I found Conina, daughter of Cohen the Barbarian and unwillingly good at theft and mayhem, pretty interesting.

Wyrd Sisters, read by Celia Imrie – Roughly, this books is a variation of Macbeth. Granny Weatherwax makes a reappearance and grudgingly works with Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick to make sure the kingdom is run properly.

This book was a great deal of fun. The interactions between Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick are great. I found them a great deal more interesting than the other characters running around.

Pyramids, read by Nigel Planer – Teppic, the heir of a pharaoh-like king, is educated in the assassins guild, as all truly wealthy sons are, and is fairly happy away from his small kingdom. However, when his father dies he must go back and decide which traditions are worth following and which need to be forgotten.

My favorite part of this story is where we first learn about how assassins are trained. My second favorite part is the magical properties of the pyramids. However, the characters themselves never really clicked for me.

Guards! Guards!, read by Nigel Planer – Captain Sam Vines is a drunk in charge of Ankh-Morpork’s night watch. The night watch spends a great deal of energy making sure they never catch any miscreants. All goes well until an ambitious man decides he wants to rule the city and starts manipulating people, and dragons, into doing his bidding.

This is a great book. It’s one of my favorite Discworld books. The book has both a solid plot and solid characters in a nice combination. I agree with the people who say Discworld shouldn’t be read by publication date. However, I think Guards! Guards! would make a decent first-book to try in the Discworld series.

My interlibrary loan for Eric just arrived. The reviews I’ve heard haven’t been glowing but even the Pratchett’s that aren’t great are usually pretty amusing.

Hugo Voting, 2014

Well, I’ve gotten through as many of the Hugo nominees as I’m going to. I’ve decided to vote as follows:

Best Novel

  1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  2. Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
  3. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson1
  4. Parasite by Mira Grant
  5. No Award

Best Novella

  1. “The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen 2
  2. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente 3
  3. “Equoid” by Charles Stross
  4. “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages4
  5. No Award

Best Novelette

  1. “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard
  2. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal
  3. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang
  4. “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen
  5. No Award

Best Short Story
Short stories aren’t my thing but I felt this was a particularly strong category.

  1. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky
  2. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu
  3. “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  4. “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar

Best Graphic Story
I’m not positive I should be voting in this category as I’m not a huge graphic novel fan. I did read all of them but with the exception of Saga I haven’t read any others in the series. As a result I’m voting for 2 but not including No Award anywhere.

  1. Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
  2. “Time” by Randall Munroe

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Tricky category I enjoyed watching all the movies but I wouldn’t say all, or even most, I’d consider Hugo worthy. Maybe I’m a snob . . .

  1. Gravity
  2. Iron Man 3
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  4. Pacific Rim
  5. Frozen5

Best Professional Artist

  1. Julie Dillon
  2. Fiona Staples
  3. John Harris
  4. John Picacio
  5. Daniel Dos Santos
  6. Galen Dara

The John W. Campbell Award
I was only able to finish a book by one of these author’s so I’m voting for only one but not using No Award.

  1. Max Gladstone

  1. I’m moderately conflicted over this one as I did not read the entire series. I read several books many, many years ago and started listening to the audio of the first Brandon Sanderson one.
  2. Based on the other blogs I’ve read, I feel like I’m the only person who like this one 🙂
  3. Not my favorite but the most literary. Ending didn’t quite work . . .
  4. Good story but if we’re including magical realism there’s others I might have expected to see nominated before.
  5. Ok, it’s probably the best Disney kid’s film I’ve seen in a while. The setup with the two love interests was wonderful to see in a princess movie. But still . . .

2014 Hugo Goal Update – Short Stories

I’ve finished the Hugo nominations for short stories. Actually, I finished them about a week ago and just forgot to post.

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, by Rachel Swirsky – This was my favorite short story. For such a short story, it took me a while to get into it. In the beginning of the story, in my mind, I kept seeing flashes of artwork in the style of How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?. However, the end caught and held me.

“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt – This one was ok. I felt like I should like it more than I did. I’m not sure why it didn’t click for me.

“Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, by Sofia Samatar – This was my least favorite. It wasn’t a bad story, just not one I could relate to.

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, by John Chu – Originally, I thought this was going to be my favorite short story. For me, it’s a tough choice between this one and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”. I particularly love how Matt is so very bad at dealing with his emotions. I always find it comforting when reading about someone more stunted than I am when it comes to talking about stuff that matters. I am trying to imagine living in Matt’s universe and I suspect I would just stop talking.

Other Hugo-related stuff
I watched Hunger Games in prep for watching the movie that was nominated for this year, Catching Fire. I thought the movie did a good job of following the book. Perhaps too good in that there’s a huge amount of stuff I don’t think you’d catch without reading the book first. Given that, I decided I should read the second book before watching the movie. I borrowed an ebook from the library and finished it the same day. I have the movie checked out and am going to try to convince Jaeger to watch it with me tomorrow night1

In some ways, reading Catching Fire was an excuse to avoid the other books I’m trying to read. Right now I’m in the middle of both The Lives of Tao and Nexus. Neither are my usual type of book and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I was planning on leaving The Wheel of Time till last but if this keeps up, I might change my mind and start on it instead of finishing these two.

Regarding the Wheel of Time, I’m still waffling over my approach. I’m currently leaning toward reading summaries of most of them and actually reading the last three. Many, many years ago I did start the Wheel of Time series but gave up after several books when there didn’t appear to be an end in sight and I didn’t trust the series to ever be finished. So, I assume some of it may come back to me when I read the summaries.

  1. Usually Jaeger doesn’t watch TV/Movies but he has been working through the Hugo nominations so I think I have a decent chance. He has not read (and is not planning to read) the first book or watched the movie so I’m dubious he’s going to get much out of the 2nd movie.

New Books

I’ve been watching the Amazon/Hachette with many mixed emotions1. There are many things I like about Amazon and there are many things I dislike about Amazon. I also like publishers but mainly because they make it easier for me to read books. I have been very, very unhappy with how most publishers have been dealing with ebooks, particularly in the library world. I agree with Cory Doctorow that they dug their own grave and now are complaining about having to lie down in it.

However, I am worried about the authors that have been affected by this. So, I decided to go on a mini book-buying spree. The Orbit US line is pretty much the only Hachette imprint I regularly read. I went looking for their forthcoming releases and was amused to note that they distribute the list via Goodreads2. I scanned the list for books that look interesting. For me, this means I’m looking for straight fantasy or SF (I’m not a fan of paranormals) and a female protagonist. Excluding the books I already own, this criteria didn’t leave a lot of choices from this year’s offering. However, I eventually decided to order Rachel Bach’s Paradox trilogy (which I’ve read and loved) and M.J. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts (which I’m taking a chance on because I liked The Steel Seraglio) from Barnes and Noble. After I bought the books, I looked at the price and realized I had accidentally stumbled into a buy 2 get 1 free deal.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get around to reading The Girl With All the Gifts. I’m still faithfully working through the Hugo Nominations.

  1. I was looking for an objective account to link to but they don’t seem to exist. I think this Washington Post article is about as close as I can come.
  2. Here is winter 2014, spring/summer 2014, and fall 2014