Proverbial cakes

So here I am, idling, playing a bit of Sims 4 because I wanted to build some houses, and now there’s this thing where sim kids and teens learn an extra set of personality traits aside from the pre-selected ones. They’re traits you have to pick up by doing, concerning levels of empathy, manners, responsibility, conflict resolution, and whatnot. It’s cute, and it actually provides some incentive to play a sim childhood as something other than a pure skill-building exercise for whatever career the grown-up will have.  Currently I have an athletic teenager who can helpfully jog to clear mind, but also wants to play a guitar a lot because it makes her feel better.   Anyway…  aaaanyway.   I was thinking about certain traits I picked up through childhood and how they affect me as an adult.  I didn’t learn a lot of house cleaning, unfortunately, so now I spend a little more time than (I assume) the average, staring at the shop aisles of sponges and soaps.  A pretty minor problem, really.   On the other hand, I absolutely and thorougly learned about delayed gratification, and it, um, it went wrong. 

To clarify – you know how kids have to learn that if they eat the candy immediately, there won’t be any left for later.  If they open all their birthday presents at once, it’ll all be over too fast… et cetera.   Impulse control, or whatever.   It’s a useful thing to master, but here’s what happened to me:

I get hold of something super nice, like a fantastically scented soap, or an expensive box of delicious licorice, or… a book by a favourite author.  I decide to save it for some imagined future moment when I’ll be able to enjoy it the most, as a special treat.   I’m so good at saving these special treats that eventually I forget all about them. 

Hello, expired and dried out fancy licorice in the back of the drawer.

Hello, books I was crazy to get to read, and… didn’t.

This is why I still haven’t read the last book in the Flex trilogy, despite owning it for… at least a year, right?  And Becky Chambers’ A closed and common orbit.  And probably 20 more books I wanted so badly that I pre-ordered them, because it felt so urgent that I get to read them. 

So dumb.  I have to start teaching myself to do a little less having and a lot more eating of the proverbial cake.

Top ten recent TBR additions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

My TBR is a pulsating, intangible being, existing in an area spanning my to-read shelf on goodreads, my wishlists on amazon/audible, and the fuzzy mold-like stuff growing in the back of my cranium, occasionally throwing out a spore of “Hey, remember once a couple of years ago you read a review somewhere that said this author was somehow similar to (or opposite to) that other author, and you also saw this title mentioned inside the text of that other novel you read….” – you know.   It’s a large and beautiful beast, my TBR.  Pretty sure I have something like four hundred books contained in it, all things added up.

And I feel pretty good about that.   I insist on feeling good about that. I’m just really tired of stressing out or feeling weirdly ashamed of saying “Ooh, that looks cool!” at a much higher rate than I can actually read things.  And I’ve realised I probably treat my TBR differently than the people who regularly cut it down like a bonsai bramble.

As for recent additions to the list:

akeyanegganunfortunateremark 1. A key, an egg, an unfortunate remark  by Harry Connolly


After years of waging a secret war against the supernatural, Marley Jacobs put away her wooden stakes and silver bullets, then turned her back on violence. She declared Seattle, her city, a safe zone for everyone, living and undead. There would be no more preternatural murder under her watch.

But waging peace can make as many enemies as waging war, and when Marley’s nephew turns up dead in circumstances suspiciously like a vampire feeding, she must look into it. Is there a new arrival in town? Is someone trying to destroy her fragile truce? Or was her nephew murdered because he was, quite frankly, a complete tool?

As Marley investigates her nephew’s death, she discovers he had been secretly dabbling in the supernatural himself. What, exactly, had he been up to, and who had he been doing it with? More importantly, does it threaten the peace she has worked so hard to create? (Spoiler: yeah, it absolutely does.)




 2. Lois McMaster Bujold (Modern Masters of Science fiction) by Edward James

Readers have awarded Lois McMaster Bujold four Hugo Awards for Best Novel, a number matched only by Robert Heinlein. Her Vorkosigan series redefined space opera with its emotional depth and explorations of themes such as bias against the disabled, economic exploitation, and the role of women in society.

Acclaimed science fiction scholar Edward James traces Bujold’s career, showing how Bujold emerged from fanzine culture to win devoted male and female readers despite working in genres–military SF, space opera–perceived as solely by and for males.

(There is also a new Vorkosigan book coming! And I haven’t yet read Bujold’s fantasy stuff, so obviously those are also books on my TBR list. The only reason I haven’t bit into them yet is, of course, the insane amount of good, but lengthy, fantasy going around. Anyway, Bujold is fantastic, and if you’re into audiobooks, Grover Gardner made them into excellent gateway-audiobooks for me.)



cityofblades3. City of blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

The city of Voortyashtan was once the home of the goddess of death, war and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin.

General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone AWOL in the middle of a mission.

But the ghosts of past wars have followed her there, and soon she begins to wonder what happened to the souls in the afterlife when the gods were defeated by her people, the Polis. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

This sequel to City of stairs was recently given a release date, which must have induced a worldwide happy sigh from everyone who wants to know what Sigrud is doing right now.  I can’t wait.




4. Return of the black death – The world’s greatest serial killer by Susan Scott & Christopher Duncan

If the twenty-first century seems an unlikely stage for the return of a 14th-century killer, the authors of Return of the Black Death argue that the plague, which vanquished half of Europe, has only lain dormant, waiting to emerge again—perhaps, in another form. At the heart of their chilling scenario is their contention that the plague was spread by direct human contact (not from rat fleas) and was, in fact, a virus perhaps similar to AIDS and Ebola. Noting the periodic occurrence of plagues throughout history, the authors predict its inevitable re-emergence sometime in the future, transformed by mass mobility and bioterrorism into an even more devastating killer.

Um, so, on Seanan McGuire’s tumblr, someone asked about recommended nonfic about plagues and other fun things. This is the one she named, so it flew straight onto my wish list. It’s pretty handy to find an author who not only writes wonderfully enjoyable books, but also, as a person, displays a lot of interests and preferences that overlap with the awed reader who stumbled across her.  I mean, uh, however one would say that without sounding like a potential crazy we are the same, nyah-hah-hah kind of stalker.  (I have picked up more recs from her this way, and have high hopes for all of them. I probably trust the Newsflesh author more than I like peanut butter.

And it’s about the black death. I’m SO into this.

(Oh, come on. You knew this would happen when you gave six year-old me the book about the ship that came to Norway in 1349….)


therace5. The race by Nina Allan

Set in a future Great Britain scarred by fracking and ecological collapse, The Race is the first full-length novel from Nina Allan, winner of the 2014 BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction (Spin, TTA Press), and the prestigious Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for Best Translated Work (Complications/The Silver Wind, Editions Tristram).

The Race opens in the coastal town of Sapphire, dominated by the illegal sport of smartdog racing: greyhounds genetically modified with human DNA. For Jenna, the latest Cup meet bears a significance far beyond the simple hunger for victory. Christy’s life is dominated by fear of her brother, a man she knows capable of monstrous acts and suspects of hiding even darker ones. Desperate to learn the truth she contacts Alex, a stranger she knows only by name. Together they must face their demons, wherever that may lead. Raised at the Croft, a secret government programme focussing on smartdogs, Maree has to undertake a journey through shipping lanes haunted by the enigmatic and dangerous Atlantic whale. What she discovers en route will change her world forever.

The story of four damaged people whose lives are inextricably linked, The Race is a novel of tender nuances, brutality, insight and great ambition, a narrative that lays bare the fears and joys of being human, and, ultimately, offers hope to us all.
“Totally assured – this is a literate, intelligent, gorgeously human and superbly strange SF novel that will continually skewer your assumptions.” – ALASTAIR REYNOLDS


viperwine6. Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

Famed beauty Venetia Stanley is so extravagantly dazzling she has inspired Ben Jonson to poetry and Van Dyck to painting, provoking adoration and emulation from the masses. Stampedes follow her arrival in town. But as she approaches middle age, the attention turns to scrutiny. Her adoring husband Sir Kenelm Digby – philosopher, alchemist and time-traveller – wishes she would age naturally, but Venetia discovers a potent and addictive elixir of youth, Viper Wine. Set on the eve of the English Civil War, and based on a true story, this brilliant novel asks a very contemporary question: what is the cost of beauty?

think I discovered this – and the Nina Allan one – from the Kitchies list of nominees.  Which perfectly illustrates how awards are nice and useful, because I had never heard of these before, and now I really, really want to get to know them better.





cinder7. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I know! Everyone else has read this already. I had – and I’m sorry – completely ignored it through the whole kerfluff, as the cover art and genre together had me swimming in prejudice.  Then someone made me actually read the blurb, and emphasized that it’s actually good, and also it was very cheap in the kindle store at that moment, so – okay. I’m going to become one of the people who read this.

Human/android tensions AND plague, right? How the heck did I let this float under my radar?



msmarvel28. Ms. Marvel, vol.2: Generation why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Adrian Alphona

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help!

Kamala may be fan-girling out when her favorite (okay maybe Top Five) super hero shows up, but that won’t stop her from protecting her hometown. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity for the first time – by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! Every girl wants a puppy, but this one may be too much of a handful, even for a super hero with embiggening powers. But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed, amazing new series continues as Kamala Khan proves why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Yes. I read the first of the new Ms.Marvel volumes, and I’m hooked. This is just done so well! I have almost zero in common with Kamala Khan, and yet, she’s completely relatable,  which is a lovely thing.   I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to wait for my library to stock this one, or if I’ll cave in and buy it so I can read it now now now.  I don’t really have a history as a Marvel reader, so Kamala could very well be my gateway hero, as it were.



thewaterknife9. The water knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the American Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, and California skirmish for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. Into the fray steps Angel Velasquez, detective, leg-breaker, assassin and spy. A Las Vegas water knife, Angel “cuts” water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet, while the poor get nothing but dust.

When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in drought-ravaged Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with no love for Vegas and every reason to hate Angel, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas refugee who survives by her wits and street smarts in a city that despises everything that she represents. With bodies piling up, bullets flying, and Phoenix teetering on collapse, it seems like California is making a power play to monopolize the life-giving flow of a river.

For Angel, Lucy, and Maria time is running out and their only hope for survival rests in each other’s hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only thing for certain is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

I’ve been a Bacigalupi devotee since The windup girl exploded all over the genresphere some years ago. He also gave me one of my very first “Wow, I’m reading a short story collection, and I enjoy it”-experiences.



10. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

I’m still angry that I didn’t read this while it was still available on Scribd – it went out of the catalogue just the week I had… probably intended to get around to it. Oh, it’s okay, I’m happy to buy it, because I have very high expectations of Wendig female-protagonist-badassery.  It’s also turning into a TV thing, which could be…fun?



Hey, by the way? In a couple of days I move my flesh vehicle in the direction of my first ever EasterCon, which is making me all kinds of fangirly-giggly.  Also, I’ll be in close proximity to cadbury creme eggs, which is… okay, not nearly as exciting as great authors talking about fun things, but still.   I might post some excited status updates over Easter, for my imaginary readership,  and I also have some good intentions in the direction of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don’t do so well with intentions, so really I should just shut up and erase this paragraph.

March 2015 Take Control Of Your TBR Pile Challenge

The challenge is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer
The challenge is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Another monthly reading challenge! I have a terrible record with these things, but I can at least state loudly that I want to delve into exisiting TBRs in March.

I’ll also say this, though, because it’s on my mind a lot lately:  I refuse to feel bad about acquiring/stockpiling/collecting more books than I can read in any timely manner. It brings me pleasure to have them.  To know they’re there for me. Mostly I choose e-books, for many reasons (it is mostly to do with built-in reading light and one-handed book grip and dysfunctional wrists, actually – and shelf space) – but yesterday, for example, I chose to purchase an old hardback from the library flea market table while I was there to pick up my long-awaited Ms Marvel.

But I like this March mission. I’ll try to get my imminent ARCs out of the way this month, and then devote myself to who-knows-what in my unread piles.  So very many choices…

The TBR tag

I wasn’t actually tagged for this, I think – but I’ve seen it going around on several blogs I read, and felt like joining in!

How do you keep track of your TBR?

Good grief. I try to add interesting-looking things to my to-read shelf on Goodreads, but I’m pretty sure some stuff lingers in my amazon/audible wish lists too. I add pretty much everything that looks interesting, as reminders to future-self.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Definitely mostly e-book. I buy print when there’s either an insane backyard sale thing going on, or when there’s something really special about it. A few days ago I pre-ordered a signed, illustrated hardback of a story by Seanan McGuire, for example. (And thus convicted myself to three weeks of cupboard-scavenging for food. Worth it.)  Oh, and I have a hardback of the Gormenghast trilogy on its way to me from the Book Depository, because it’s illustrated and has a foreword by China Miéville. And I want to read it.  So, yeah.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

On Goodreads I join some monthly buddy reads and stuff – it’s great to get to read a longtime TBR with a group/companion.  So that’s one way to determine the next book – another is to keep track of my ARCs and when they’re going to be published, so I don’t, um, betray them with laziness.   Inbetween all that, I choose according to whim, and usually as a sort of direct response to what I previously read, because I prefer not to read too similar things one after another. So a complex space opera is likely to be followed by a YA fantasy, for example.  It’s just how I prefer it.

A book that has been on your TBR the longest…

Uuuh.  I seem to have added several books the first day I started using the to-read shelf on Goodreads, in January 2012.  It looks like I started out tracking to-reads because I wanted an easy view of which Hugo winning novels I hadn’t read yet.  The very oldest entry is Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, which I am infact extremely eager to read, I just… obviously haven’t made it happen yet.  Sadface.

A book that you recently added to your TBR pile…

Roger Clarke’s A natural history of ghosts: 500 years of hunting for proof.  An online newspaper review appeared in my twitter feed and I instantly added it.  I imagine it would make a nice companion piece to Mary Roach’s Spook.

A book on your TBR strictly due to its beautiful cover…

Ah, um, I mentioned earlier a few hardcovers coming my way in the mail because of illustrations and whatnot, so they probably count.  And, though I’m not sure it counts – I’m planning a complete re-read of the Discworld novels, while I go about buying the lovely new hardcover editions.  My first time Discworld read was put together of paperbacks from two or three different print series, and then as I caught up with current publishing, I bought the hardbacks, and then e-books.  I have to assume this happened to other Discworld readers, too.  Anyway, for some of my favourite books, I consider it worth the money AND the shelf space.  I actually have to buy a new shelf for them.  Going to IKEA in a few days, infact.   (Speaking of which, I’m very amused by the cover/gimmick of Horrorstör, but will probably pick that one up in digital format anyway.)

A book on your TBR that you never plan on actually reading…

None? I only add things I’m genuinely interested in, though obviously not every title is a good match for every day/week/mood/life-situation.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re super excited for…

Oh, MANY! Let’s go with the next Neal Stephenson novel, Seveneves, which has an amazon page and a publishing date, but zero information aside from that.  It amazes me how so many other people “gave up” on Stephenson after Reamde and Anathem – the latter is a huge favourite of mine, and, well, Reamde was a pretty funny adventure, if nothing else.  So, yeah, a new Stephenson novel in May 2015 sounds like the most perfect birthday present a fat robot could possibly wish for.

A book on your TBR that everyone’s read but you…

Hm – depends on who “everyone” is!  In the general booksy world it feels like everyone is waiting for more Patrick Rothfuss, but I haven’t read The Wise Man’s Fear yet. I read the first book and it was a nice pageturner and all, but not enough of a hook to make me rush for the next book, clearly.    But if we’re talking about the “everyone” I have actual conversations with, or have had conversations with in the recent decade,  I think the answer is the Illuminatus! Trilogy.  It’s been looming over me for yeeears.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you…

City of stairs!  I’m absolutely going to read it, I’m just trying to behave myself and avoid the purchase until I’ve read the half dozen other very-new books I haven’t gotten to, yet.

A book on your TBR you’re dying to read…

Unnnnh, Ancillary Sword!  How I didn’t get started on this the very day it was published is a mystery. Or, well, no, because I had a couple of buddy reads and also Civilization: Beyond Earth, but just thinking about Ancillary Sword is making me froth a little bit.

The number of books on your TBR shelf…

Hah.  Like I said, I tend to add everything interesting-looking, and am not completely successful at keeping track of it all in one place.  On Goodreads the to-read shelf is 331 books.  I’m pretty sure I own a couple of hundred books I haven’t read yet.  I blame kindle daily deals and sales for ruining my self control aspirations.

(You want to answer these things, too? Be a rebel, do it un-tagged. I did. I’m okay.)

Backyard sale haul

Yeah, the other day, the interesting independent book store (there is only one of them in this area that is of any interest to me – it’s true!) launched its annual backyard sale.   I don’t actually want physical copies of books, and especially not hard covers, because I simply don’t have the space to keep them in – and yet…  Books, right? Right?

I wasn't kidding about lacking space. All my shelves are stacked double at this point. Also, I need room for my teenage mutant ninja turtles.
I wasn’t kidding about lacking space. All my shelves are stacked double at this point. Also, I need room for my teenage mutant ninja turtles.

I came away with five books, of which three were already on my wish list / TBR,  so that felt almost… smart and reasonable?  Wallet says nah.

AND! The backyard wasn’t enough reckless spending for me.  Because I feel like I’m probably going to be a Kameron Hurley fangirl once I get a grip and read a novel of hers – I grabbed The Mirror Empire. (Partly because I also like to buy books from Angry Robot. I mean, obviously!)