Category Archives: Books

Favorite Books

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

2014 Hugo Goal Update

It’s been a very long time since I posted reading updates. I have been reading but haven’t had the time to post any updates. I’ve pretty much abandoned my children’s book goal for the moment but I do plan to get back to it eventually. Right now I’m focused on the Hugos and I’ve made pretty decent progress.

Jaeger will probably want to skip this post since he hasn’t read most of the works I’m going to talk about (he procrastinated by reading Quicksilver1 allegedly as research for Scotland).

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie – This was my nomination and I didn’t re-read it. However, it’s still my favorite of the books I read.

Neptune’s Brood, by Charles Stross – This was amusing but more Jaeger’s thing than mine. It’s based in the same universe as Saturn’s Children which I read several years ago2.

Parasite, by Mira Grant – This was a well written book with a subject that doesn’t really interest me. I don’t want the time I spent reading it back but it just didn’t click for me. This is definitely not a fault of the book but more about the type of stuff I personally want to read.

Warbound, by Larry Correia – I consider this the most frivolous book of the bunch. Since it’s the 3rd in the series I was planning to read the first two before the third. However, something about the first one was rubbing me the wrong way so I skipped almost immediately to the third book. I think reading a couple of chapters of the first book gave me enough info to enjoy the third book. And I did enjoy the book. It’s very Baen: rah-rah humans, we can beat anything. I don’t think it’s Hugo material but I’ve had that opinion about other books that have won in the past.

The only hugo nominated “novel” I haven’t read yet is the (ENTIRE) Wheel of Time series. I do not have that much time. My plan at the moment is to read all the other categories and then circle back to The Wheel of Time. At that point, I’m not sure if I’ll just start at the beginning and read till my time is up or selectively pick what others consider the “good bits.”

Best Novella
The Butcher of Khardov, by Dan Wells – I did not like this one. The writing is fine but plot itself is too violent and tragic for my tastes. I saw multiple reviews noting that the protogonist wasn’t a likable character. I actually didn’t have any problem with the character. I had a problem with the world he was in where he isn’t provided the help that he so obviously needs. It turns out that this novella is based on a game which perhaps explains why it had to turn out the way it did.

The Chaplain’s Legacy, by Brad Torgersen – This was my favorite. It has a nice mix of everything that makes me enjoy science fiction.

Equoid3, by Charles Stross – This is another one that is more Jaeger’s style than mine. I haven’t read any novels in the Laundry universe but the basic idea is pretty easy to pick up. I enjoyed the story even though it’s not my preferred setting.

Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne M. Valente – I would consider this literary fantasy. It would easily fit into a college literature class’s required reading. Objectively, I have to say this is a really good story. However, I (fortunately) couldn’t relate to any of the women in the story which I think made it harder for me to enjoy.

Wakulla Springs 4, by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages – This was a good multi-generational story. However, I spent most of the story wondering why it was nominated for a Hugo. Finally, towards the end, I found the fantastical element. I would put this story in the “magical realism” category.

Best Novelette
Opera Vita Aeterna, by Vox Day – This one was a hard one for me to read due to the author, not the story 5. The story itself was fine. Parts were interesting and parts weren’t.

The Exchange Officers, by Brad Torgersen – This story didn’t do much for me which surprised me a bit considering how much I liked The Chaplain’s Legacy. I liked many of the ideas but perhaps the format was just too short for me to get into it.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars, by Mary Robinette Kowal – After reading the first two in this category I read this one and thought, “whew, something I can vote for.” It’s an excellent story and does a good job of discussing choices people have to make between family and careers.

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, by Ted Chiang – Another really good story. It talks about the social aspects of technology. Specifically, the written word and a future where everything we ever do could be recorded.

The Waiting Stars, by Aliette de Bodard – This was my favorite Novelette. I would love to read a novel-length story set in this universe. I see the author has a novella that appears in the same universe which I might get once I work through my reading backlog.

Categories I haven’t completely yet: The World of Time series (which seems big enough it should be its own category), Best Short Story, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and the nominated authors for John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

I’m making progress . . .

  1. On the off chance you now have the burning desire to go out and read/buy this book you should be aware that there are a couple of different editions depending on whether you buy hardcover or paperback. What Jaeger read is the original hardcover Quicksilver which contains three books that were published individual as paperbacks. See Wikipedia for a better breakdown. I believe the main reason this was done was to mess up library collections. I had to write a special email to our cataloging department to explain the situation.
  2. You’ll note this is an example of dubious cover art. Charles Stross discusses his options on cover art here. He also mentions that some people are so appalled by the US cover art that they import the UK edition at great expense. If you are inclined this way, let me point out that the Book Depository has the UK edition available and does free shipping to the US.
  3. Currently, on June 10, 2014, this is free from Barnes and Noble and Amazon
  4. Currently, on June 10, 2014, this is free from Barnes and Noble and Amazon
  5. The author appears, at least on the internet, to be racist and misogynistic. Some quotes I see sound too weird to be true but then I go to the source and they haven’t been taken out of context.

Reading Goal Housekeeping Note

Because my reading goals seem to have gotten out of hand, I’ve created specialized categories for each one in addition to the generic books category.

Many Reading Updates

No, it’s not your imagination, I’m not checking off my goal books particularly fast. However, I am making progress. I think one reason I like having goal books is because it provides handy reading material when I want to read but am not in the mood for any particular book. Also, it’s working well as a way to scout new books and audio books for Calvin. We recently finished listening to The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, mentioned in my previous reading goal post, and Calvin seemed to like it.

At the beginning of the year I didn’t have any book goals but now I seem to be acquiring new ones monthly. I’ve recently decided to listen to all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Up to this point, I’ve listened to about half of the Discworld books. There are some, such as Monstrous Regiment that I seem to listen to at least once a year. I decided to make sure that I haven’t missed other equally good Discworld books by listening to them all in published order. This is a bit tricky because most of the unabridged1 Discworld audio books appear to be out of print or are really, really expensive2. However, Interlibrary Loan is coming to my rescue. I searched and it appears I should be able to get the whole series one ILL at a time.

So far I’ve listened to The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. When we went to London, many years ago, we took public transportation for everything. This was before the days of the Kindle and I quickly ran out of books to read while transiting to and from places. As a result, Jaeger and I expanded our must-see attractions to include a bookstore. I was aghast at how much the books cost (like everything else, it helped to pretend I was paying in dollars) but picked up UK editions of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. Unfortunately, they didn’t speak to me. At all. After listening to them, they’re still not my favorites in the series but I like them a lot better. I’d give them a solid 3 stars. I’m not sure why I have such different reaction to reading versus listening. As a side note, I also watched The Color of Magic miniseries. It’s not the highest quality but gives a very good flavor of the Discworld series in terms of laughing at stereotypes, etc. What I found weird though was that even though the miniseries was called The Color of Magic, it contained a lot more plot elements from The Light Fantastic. It obviously was meant to cover both books but I felt a lot more of the second book ended up in it.

Listening to the Discworld series is more of an unofficial goal. However, I do have one other official goal I’ll be working on: the 2014 Hugo Nominations. This year Jaeger and I decided we really, really should take part in the Hugo nominations instead of just watching from the sidelines so we both bought “supporting memberships”3. I only submitted nominations for “Best Novel” as that’s the form that I’m most familiar with. However, I’m going to try to commit to reading all nominations for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and the nominated authors for John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Committing to read all the nominations for Best Novel seemed relatively easy until I saw that the entire Wheel of Time series has been nominated. I hadn’t even realized entire series could be nominated but apparently there’s a clause in the WSFS constitution that makes this possible. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. I think I’ve read the first three books in the series and then gave up with plans to reconsider if it was ever finished. Well, Robert Jordan died before he finished the series. However, Brandon Sanderson, working from Jordan’s notes, has finished it. That being said, I don’t think I’m willing to commit to reading 15 books in one series in the next couple of months. So, I’m contemplating reading the last three that Brandon Sanderson wrote. I’ve liked every Sanderson book I’ve read so hopefully I can get through these three. I imagine ardent fans will say I can’t possible get the scope of the series with just reading the last three books. That’s probably fair but being a long-time library user, I’m pretty good and figuring out what happens in prior books without reading them. Also, given I gave up after the first three books implies I wasn’t invested enough to be interested in voting for it anyway.

My nomination for Best Novel was Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. It’s an excellent book but I’m worried it’s against really tough competition this year. However, it’s nice that there are worthwhile books to be nominated this year. I was really not impressed with the options a couple of years ago. I suppose it’s better to have too many good choices than no good choices.

And at long last, my progress on my children’s books . . .

Children’s Goal Books I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Shakespeare’s Secret, by Elise Broach (Shakespeare, new school, friends)

Hero, named after Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, is having to adapt to yet another school. Hero is hoping that her new classmates will ignore her but she ends up the butt of a joke her very first day and it goes downhill from there. Fortunately, an elderly lady next door provides a mystery that helps Hero forget her socialization troubles.

Good juvenile book. I always like reading interesting female characters.

Bearwalker, by Joseph Bruchac (contemporary Native American, stereotypes, adventure, life lessons, new school, horror)

Baron has moved to yet another new school and has been dealing with bullies. His class goes on the annual eighth-grade bonding experience to “Camp Chuckamuck.” Baron senses that something is wrong at Camp Chuckamuck. Things get particularly strange when it seems like a Native American folk tale is coming to life.

This is a book that I would have never picked up on my own. After all, it has a male protagonist. However, it was really good. It’s way too old for Calvin at this point but I’ll put it on my list to introduce it to him when Calvin is older.

The Dark Pond, by Joseph Bruchac (contemporary Native American, loner, adventure, horror)

There are a lot of similarities between this book and Bearwalker. Both deal with boys that are having a hard time making friends and both deal with nature and Native American legends. However, in this one Armie, the protogonist, is going to school in an area surrounded by nature instead of just taking a trip there.

Again, another really good book that I’ll keep in mind for Calvin later.

The Fairy Tale Detectives, by Michael Buckley (fairy tales, sisters, self-reliance)

Two sisters are shipped of to live with a woman claiming to be their grandmother after their parents mysteriously disappear. The girls have always been told their grandmother is dead so they are deeply suspicious of the old women. The old women is very strange, has a strange man that appears to live with her, and lives in a strange house. However, eventually the girls realize that they come from a long line of Grimms whose job it is to protect normal people from real fairy-tale characters.

I expected to love this book. I usually adore fairy tale retellings and similar stories. However, I never really got into this one. I don’t know if it’s because it was too young an audience or something else. I won’t bother saving this one for Calvin. However, if I happen to end up with a girl at some point, I might introduce it to her. Maybe she’ll like it better than I did.

Keeper of the Doves, by Betsy Byars (girls, words, prejudice)

Amen McBee is the youngest of five sisters. She loves words and writes poetry. Her older twin sisters are both her mentors and tormentors. The twins willfully misunderstand Mr. Tominski, an old recluse who lives on their lands, which ends in tragedy.

This was a short book which also felt very reflective. Amen spends a lot of time thinking and trying to figure out things which is in stark contrast to her twin sisters who appear to enjoy jumping to conclusions. It’s a good book. I might request the audio book for Calvin to listen to. It deals with some heavy situations but I think it could provide some good conversations about judging people without understanding them.

Reading Goal: 23 of 180

  1. And who would condescend to listen to abridged audio books (though I sometimes make an exception for non-fiction).
  2. Audio books are naturally more expensive than printed books due to the narrator, who can make or break an audio book, and all the additional production requirements audio requires. I understand why audio books are expensive. I’m just personally unwilling to spend more than $40 for any audio book.
  3. We contemplated actually going to Loncon 3. I’ve never been to a Worldcon before and would really like to try the experience. However, the timing was really bad. We might try to hit the 2015 “Sasquan” which will be located in Spokane Washington(state).

Children’s Books Reading Goal: Update 4

I’ve been slacking. This goal is definitely going to take a while.

Goal Books I’ve Read

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, by Betty G. Birney (small town, stories, juvenile)

Eben longs to explore all the exotic places around the world and get away from his boring town. His father makes him a deal that if he can find “seven wonders” in Sassafras Springs, he can go to Colorado to visit his relatives. Eben doesn’t believe that Sassafras Springs has any wonders but starts looking in hopes of escaping his town.

I enjoyed this book. Eben learns to appreciate his town and the people within it. I’ve requested the audiobook version because I think it’d be a good one for Calvin to listen to.

Hoop Girlz, by Jane Lucy Bledsoe (basketball, girls, commitment, juvenile)

River loves playing basketball and dreams of playing in the WNBA. However, when the “A team” is chosen, River doesn’t make the cut and is devastated. Instead, she has to learn to commit to making the “B team” as good as it can be

This book didn’t really grab me but I think if I was a girl that loved basketball, I would have loved this book. I could be wrong but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fiction around girls playing sports.

My Last Best Friend, by Julie Bowe (Juvenile, girls, bullies, friends)
Ida’s best friend has moved away and she’s heartbroken. She decides it’s too painful to make friends when they just end up leaving. It doesn’t help that the room’s bully seems to have a personal vendetta against Ida. However, a new girl arrives who is (amazingly) persistent at trying to become Ida’s friend.

More juvenile than I’d choose to read but a good story for that age range. Discusses several issues around friends, bullies, and lying to sound good.

Storm Catchers, by Tim Bowler (teen, family, secrets, kidnapping, ghosts)
Ella is kidnapped one night when she’s babysitting her 3-year-old brother. Her older brother was suppose to stay but left to hang out with friends. As a result, he blames himself for her disappearance. In addition, the younger brother is acting very odd and keeps leaving the house unattended.

This was my least favorite of the ones I’ve read recently. It was a good story but ghosts in a context other than fantasy freak me out. I’m going to blame it on my upbringing but I like ghost stories to stay firmly in fantastical settings. All that being said, there were a lot of interesting themes that the story dealt with.

Reading Goal: 19 of 180

Children’s Books Reading Goal: Update 3

Well, I made it through 3 books this week. I actually thought I had done four. However, it was only after finishing Lost in Bermooda that I realized it wasn’t one of my goal books. I must have checked it out for Calvin (?).

Goal Books I’ve Read

Hope was Here, by Joan Bauer (young adult, politics, family)

Hope and her aunt are moving to Wisconsin to try to start fresh after being betrayed. Addie, Hope’s aunt, takes over the job of cook from a dying man while Hope waitresses for the diner. Hope misses the exciting life of New York but gradually the little town becomes her home.

This was a really good book. It has all sorts of themes that may be relevant to a teen: rejection, family, growing up, relationships, adversity.

Peeled, by Joan Bauer (young adult, fear, newspapers)

Another great book featuring a female protagonist by Bauer. Hildy is a high school reporter who is trying to follow in her deceased father’s footsteps. She loves her small town but there have been rumors of malicious ghosts near the old Ludlow House. The town is whipped into a panic, helped by the town’s official newspaper, and Hildy is determined to get to the bottom of the situation.

The Double-Digit Club, by Marion Dane Bauer (Juvenile, girls, cliques, conflict resolution)

At the beginning of the school year Valerie created the “Double-Digit Club”. It’s for “any” girl that is ten or older. At the time, Valerie was the only ten-year-old in the class so it was a club of one. However, one-by-one the other girls turn ten until only Sarah and Paige are excluded. Sarah and Paige have vowed not to join the double-digit club and stay friends but things don’t go the way they envisioned.

This was a harder book for more to get through. It’s probably because it’s aimed at the juvenile audience. Probably a good book for juvenile girls but not one of my favorites reads as an adult.

Reading Goal: 14 of 180