Friday
Jan122018

A Hat Full of Sky

First book of the new year! Woohoo! This was the second book in the Tiffany Aching part of Discworld and it's really good. I listened to it on audio, but as I've mentioned elsewhere, I don't love the format. I expect at some point in the near future, I will be buying all the Tiffany Aching paperbacks. I've got one in hardcover, since I bought The Shepherd's Crown when it came out.

I've only got 4 or 5 Discworld audiobooks left, and I don't think I'll get anymore once I'm done. They've been an interesting way to spend my lunch break, but I just really don't love the format, plus they get pricey. Print books it is!

One of the reasons I love print so much, is that when there's a REALLY good line or scene in a book, I like to go back and re-read it. And that's just really hard to do with audio. I always find myself picking up the print book afterward anyway, so I might as well just stick with my favourite format, though it'd be REALLY FUCKING AWESOME if the publishing industry could figure out bundling.

Anyway, speaking of good lines, I really like this one from this book:
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. ... Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

This stuck with me not just because it's the exact reason I love to travel, but also because I have moved a long long way from where I started out.

I guess this book is a sort of rite of passage book, which I don't really like, but this one is funny and cute and a little bit dark. It's got the first really good interactions between Tiffany and Granny Weatherwax, and an awesome assist from the Feegles.

In this book, Tiffany leaves her home on the Chalk to begin apprenticing as a witch in the mountains. There are a lot of great characters around her in this story, and it's a good thing, because a Hiver, an ancient creature that can't be killed, has locked on to Tiffany and threatens to destroy her.

With some encouragement from Granny, a whole lot of smarts, and a good measure of empathy, Tiffany sees herself through the ordeal. I love the way Tiffany brings out a new side of Granny, a sort of vulnerable, candid honesty that we don't see with the other witches.

This is definitely not an entry point to Discworld or Tiffany or the witches, but it's an excellent read. I frequently see people asking where to start with Discworld and there's a lot of opinions out there. But honestly, I started right at the very beginning with The Colour of Magic and I don't regret it.

Pratchett's earlier novels aren't nearly as good as these ones near the end of the series, but they're still excellent. If you try starting with Rincewind and it's not cutting it, you could probably start with Mort or Wyrd Sisters or even Witches Abroad. By that point, Pratchett is really starting to find his rhythm and starting later means missing out on some good world-building and character foundations.

Friday
Dec292017

Surviving and Thriving in 2018

So 2017, like 2016, was a year that was great for me personally and a fucking nightmare in general. I've stopped reading the news and muted everything that has anything to do with American politics. I still see my American friends losing their shit on a daily basis, which is hard, so my mental health has continued to suffer this year (which is basically par for the course for anyone who isn't a garbage person). But I did better than I expected, mostly due to ramping up the self-care. I also got WAY more politically active than I've ever been and donated way more money than I should have to causes fighting the nightmare.

Anyway, here's the recap of how I did hitting my goals this year:

Writing
Okay, so I smashed my writing goals. The only ones I didn't hit were outlines for Fireborn 3 & 4 and writing 6 new short stories to self-publish. I stuck with publishing a short story a month like I wanted, but that venture hasn't shown the ROI I was hoping for, so I'm setting it aside for now and concentrating on my novels again. Which I did awesome with.

Both Fireborn 1 & 2 have been revised/rewritten and sent to betas. FB 1 is getting trunked. I like it, but it's more a bridge for me between Dragon Whisperer and the Fireborn YA series that kicks off with FB 2. I've revised and polished and queried Blueshift 1 (which has led to more revisions that are almost complete so I can submit it to Angry Robot's open call this weekend). I restructured, re-outlined and rewrote Blueshift 2 for NaNoWriMo and I've started the outline for Blueshift 3. I'm really happy with how it's turning out and the first book has had decent reception from agents. Now it's just a matter of finding the right one.

And I even took a writing course! I managed to get into the course Kelley Armstrong teaches every summer at U of T. It was excellent.

Reading
So this year has been one requiring intense escapism. And in an attempt to cultivate better sleep hygiene, I also started reading at least 30 minutes before going to bed. This resulted in me exceeding my goal by 50%. Yes, I read 45 books this year! I don't think I read quite as many books from my shelves as I'd like, but roughly half the books I read were by women or POC. I expect to continue this trend indefinitely, because frankly it makes for better reading.

Health
I feel like things on the health front were an utter failure because I GAINED 15 lbs as opposed to losing anything at all. But I did keep up walks and kickboxing until November when a combination of illness and ill-timed meetings meant I haven't gotten any exercise in a couple of months. And I feel like garbage and can't wait for kickboxing classes to reopen next week! But overall my health wasn't terrible. I had a lot of stamina until recently and I plan on getting it back.

Finances
I could have done a little better with this. But I kept going only to the cons that were free to attend or I had a vendor's table/spot on panels. Most of what I bought for clothing was necessary stuff, though I did have two really awesome dresses custom made (with pockets!) One is a Nightmare Before Christmas design and the other is Star Wars. I spoiled my kid way less than normal. At any rate, I'm doing fine financially and finding it easier and easier to cut back on expenses when and if I need to.

Family
So we did more family activities this year than last year, but that somehow resulted in me and my husband going on less date nights. I still need to be more consistent with after school activities for my kiddo, but she and I have done a lot of trips together which has been really cool.

2018 Goals

Writing
Outline Fireborn 3 & 4
3 short stories (write and query)
Start preliminary research and planning for shiny new idea
Revise Blueshift 2
Finish detailed outline of Blueshift 3
Do NaNoWriMo
Write Fireborn 3
Rewrite Blueshift 3
Query Fireborn 2
bonus:
Start writing shiny new idea
Look into writing novellas and check out the sort tor.com publishes

Reading
Read at least 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by women or POC
Read 3 books from library

Family
One family event per month
One date night per month
Resurrect after school activities w/kiddo
At least 4 mother-daughter trips

Health
Continue kickboxing 3 times a week
Walk at least 2 times a week in warm months
Lose weight, any at all

Travel
Visit 2 new (to me) national parks
Revisit 2 national parks
Attend WorldCon76

If you're reading this, congrats you survived 2017! Here's hoping we all make it through 2018. What are your goals? Find me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Thursday
Dec212017

Monstrous Regiment

Another excellent Discworld novel that had me snickering constantly but also hit me right in the feels. And a shout out to an old white dude doing a passable job of writing about sexism. When I started listening to this audiobook and realized what it was going to be about, I had concerns. Reading this while the MeToo movement still hasn't hit bottom yet, yeah, plenty to be concerned about.

But Pratchett pulled it off and managed to leave me feeling hopeful.

So this is a book about war and about women pretending to be men in order to save/find men important to them or escape bad situations. It's about women disguised as men so they can do the right thing. It's an ugly war that's got Ankh-Morpork involved now (hence Vimes's spot-on cameo) and it's a desperate situation for the country Borogravia.

Main character Polly is just looking for her brother. All of the girls she meets along the way are looking for something in a country that seems to view their very existence as an Abomination Unto Nuggan (their utterly demented god). All of them pretending to be something they're not, with a pair of socks stuffed down their trousers to help with their disguises.

The socks jokes alone are worth the price of admission. "Thinking with his socks again." Heh.

To say more would reveal huge spoilers, but I thought the ending had a hopeful tone with a message that absolutely applies to some of the liberation women are seeing in the entertainment industry right now. Anyway, this is a great read and a superb addition to the Discworld series.

Friday
Dec152017

Exit Strategy

So this is a book about a lady assassin and a pro-killer team up to catch a serial killer (which has a bit of a Dexter vibe to it that I thought would be rad) so I was pretty excited to read it. But it ended up being pretty meh. The first half of the book is SUPER slow, which is odd because Armstrong is usually the queen of pacing. I mean, some of the best writing advice on pacing I've ever received came from her.

It got to the point where if I had to read about Nadia taking ONE MORE SHOWER, I was going to light the book on fire. Thankfully, when I got to the point where the book had one chapter left to prove itself before I gave up, it got better.

If I wasn't writing about assassins and wanted to see someone else's inside take on the topic, I probably would have quit a few chapters in. The second half of the book is pretty good, with good action sequences, but it still didn't make up for the slow pace at the start. I also didn't like the rape as motivation trope in this one. I mean, yeah, it's everywhere, and is often true to life, but I'm still tired of it all the same.

So yeah, this is definitely not Armstrong's best work. I don't think I'll read the next book in the series, but who knows.

Monday
Nov202017

The Wee Free Men

Oops. I read this book closer to the beginning of the month, but it's NaNoWriMo and I'm lucky I can remember my own name these days.

Anyway, this is the first Tiffany Aching book, and another in the witches series. It's also branded as a YA, but it really doesn't feel like one at all. I feel like that's a marketing gimmick. Aside from Tiffany, the MC, being 9 years old, basically nothing about this is YA at all. The tone and content of this book is the same as any other in the Discworld series.

So, much like Lords and Ladies, this book is about the elves and their terrible queen. She's trying for another invasion of Discworld, but she's got to go through Tiffany first. Tiffany receives a smidge of mentoring from Miss Tick (another witch) before she goes off for help, leaving Tiffany on her own against the queen. Who steals Tiffany's little brother.

While Lords and Ladies has all manner of fairytale critters leaking into the "real" world, Tiffany spends a good chunk of the book confronting the queen on her own turf. She has some help from the Wee Free Men (aka Nac Mac Feegle) who we've seen a little of in past witches books.

This is a great book with an excellent new character and has all the humour I've missed from this series in recent books. It's got some heavy stuff too about family and honouring the memory of those passed, and also about self-discovery and identity. Tiffany goes from being a precocious, no-nonsense little girl to a full blown witch. And it's an amazing journey.

The showdown between Tiffany and the queen at the end left me in tears. And getting to see a glimpse of Tiffany interacting with Granny Weatherwax has me excited for the next book.

And one nice thing about The Wee Free Men is that it can be a starting point to Discworld for anyone who hasn't read any of the series before. Parts of it would make a little more sense if you've read the other witches books, but it's not necessary. So if you've wanted to give Discworld a try and aren't sure about some of the other novels, give this one a try.