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a nice monster
applewoman
I’m almost done reading the first book in a mystery series that someone recommended: In the Bleak Midwinter, by Julia Spencer-Fleming. I stayed up way too late last night biting my nails through a particularly tense scene near the end of the book; it’s lovely to know I can still get so deeply involved in a novel. The two main characters, Russ (police chief) and Clare (Episcopal priest and former military helicopter pilot!) are wonderful. And joy! there are at least eight books already out in the series. Is there anything better than finding a new author to love?

I’m on the waitlist for the second book, though, so I need to choose from my current stack. I think next may be either Warchild, by Karin Lowachee, or Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Or something else entirely, maybe. I won’t know till I open it and start reading.

***

Whenever the guy who shares a cubicle wall with me sneezes, it triggers an adrenaline rush. His sneeze sounds exactly like my stepfather’s. It is seriously annoying, but there is nothing to be done about it. A person is allowed to sneeze, after all.

He also whisper-sings along sometimes when he has headphones on, which is annoying in an entirely different way. But then I’ve been told that I sometimes talk out loud to myself when I’m working without realizing it, so I suspect we annoy each other about equally. We are all too Minnesotan to ever discuss it.

***

At my daughter's mandatory pre-kindergarten screening, the tester showed her a picture of a swarm of bees and then asked which of three things “sounded like” bees: a horse, a pair of pants, or cheese. My daughter pointed to the zipper on the pants. “A zipper sounds like bees!” The tester admitted that, yes, the sound of a zipper was like the sound of bees, and then completely failed to explain what rhyming was, gave up, and went on to the next test (alliteration, which was completed with no problems).

***

My daughter has an imaginary friend: a nice monster named Little Boy Blue. No idea how she decided on that name, especially since she says he’s tall and green. Sometimes he rides in the car with us, and sometimes he runs along next to the car or swings from the streetlights. She doesn’t mention him often, but she hasn’t dropped the idea entirely. I’m curious to see what develops.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/17406.html.
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all the feelings about all the books!
applewoman
I’ve given up fan fiction for Lent, which I’ve done for the past two or three years. Since fanfic is my primary reality-avoiding coping mechanism, during this season I usually 1) Feel ALL the feelings, and 2) Read A LOT more books. Sometimes I feel ALL the feelings about the books! I have very little free time but I’m a very fast reader, so in the last seven days I’ve devoured five(-ish) books. No major plot spoilers below, but general impressions.

Prisoner (second in the Werewolf Marines series), by Lia Silver: I really liked DJ from what we saw of him in the first book (Laura’s Wolf), and I like him even more after getting a look inside his head. I’m glad the next book is being released shortly, because this one ends on a bit of a...not exactly a cliffhanger, but a major obstacle is unresolved.

One thing I find really refreshing about Silver’s romances is the absence of that super-annoying trope you often see: people who don’t talk to each other when it would make sense for them to do so. Usually it’s because the writer can’t figure out how else to stop them from immediately falling into bed with each other. Silver’s characters TALK to each other. They work things out. They don’t assume the other person is thinking this or that; they ASK when it makes sense to do so. The obstacles they face are real and not just in their heads, and that makes their resolution much more satisfying.

Also I really love the mythology of the werewolves she’s created. Scent names! Born wolves and made wolves! Special powers! Pack traditions! I just want to roll around in it all like a puppy.

Hawk, by Steven Brust: The latest in the Vlad Taltos series. A Brust book is always a pleasure, and I enjoyed being back in Adrilankha, spending time with some of Vlad’s old friends and enemies. I feel as if I’ve been reading this series forever—in a good way!—and I look forward to seeing where it goes next. (Ha, and I sort of have been reading it forever. I just looked it up: Jhereg was first published when I was ten years old. Wow, that’s impressive, isn’t it? Keeping a series going with a major publisher for more than 30 years!)

Low Midnight, by Carrie Vaughn: The latest in the Kitty Norville series, sort of. It’s the first one from the POV of Cormac, the bounty hunter Kitty met in her first book. He’s just so low-key and unimpressed by most things that the book never gained much momentum. Kitty has such a forceful personality; I really missed that.

No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, an anthology edited by Mercedes Lackey: Oh, Valdemar, land of my teenaged-girl heart! I will always love you, even though I’ve given up on reading any of the novels past, oh, The Mage Winds trilogy. But I still like picking up these shared-world anthologies, and I enjoyed this one, though there was nothing particularly memorable in it. Except for, oh! that one where it ended horribly. UGH. I closed the book at that point and complained to my husband, and he said the good guys have to die sometimes! Then he quoted Batman from the Lego Movie, which I have yet to see, but apparently this is sort of a meme now? “DARKNESS. NO PARENTS.” All right then!

I keep meaning to look for more good Valdemar fanfic. There’s a series I came across that I’m really enjoying; it could fit right into one of the published anthologies (except for being, ha, novel-length at this point): MueraRashaye’s “Friends Across Borders”, about the unlikely friendship between a Sunpriest from Karse and a Herald. Good stuff.

Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London series), by Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant! I love how repressed you are, and how good you are at being a cop, even if you keep having to ask yourself, “What Would Lesley Do?” (Oh, my heart!) I enjoyed this, even though it meanders quite a bit. Other people have talked about the pacing issues, and yeah, but it still held my interest nonetheless. It felt like it was setting up a lot that will pay off later, but I wish the next book was out NOW so we could get on with things. Not enough Lesley! Not enough Nightingale! But I enjoy Beverly, and I liked the cop Peter hung out with.

I also made an aborted run at Meghan Daum’s book of personal essays, The Unspeakable, but after reading the first two I gave up. I don’t think I was in the right mood for it. And I couldn’t help but compare her essay “Matricide,” about her relationship with her mother and her mother’s death, to Roz Chast’s Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which I connected with a lot more readily and found very moving. Eh, well: sometimes I circle back round to things and they speak to me the second time. I bounced hard off the first Rivers of London book the first time, but when I came back a year later I really liked it.

Now I’ve started reading Stranger, by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown. Post-apocalyptic societies are my jam, and this one has lots of cool world-building so far. I do wish the publisher of the hardcover had not chosen to use a different typeface for each POV (especially a sans serif one! woe to my eyes!) but that’s a tiny distraction. I can tell already I’ll be wanting the second book as soon as I’m done with this one.

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I like my blanket fort
applewoman
I can’t remember the last movie I saw in a theater. Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Maybe I should go see Jupiter Ascending. My husband said it was a great spectacle but a ridiculous plot, and he was fascinated by the world-building but wanted it to make a lot more sense. I respect things more if they make sense, but I can still enjoy them even if they don’t.

I accidentally snubbed someone at church last Sunday. I have very slow...social reflexes, I guess you’d say, and this happens sometimes. She looked at me and started to smile, and then I was looking past her, and then my brain caught up and I looked back and she had already looked away with an embarrassed expression. I wanted to walk over and say, “Sorry! I didn’t mean to do that.” But it would’ve been weird, since we barely know each other. I told my husband about it later, and he said sometimes I “go away” when I’m surrounded by too many people, sort of recede a bit. Usually when that happens I’m thinking that I wish I were invisible.

It’s really not that I don’t like people. It’s just TOO MUCH ALL AT ONCE for me to deal with in certain situations, and it takes effort not to shut down.

Is it weird that I have a Tumblr but don’t actually use Tumblr? I follow some Tumblr blogs, but I’ve added them to my RSS feed reader. I tried using the Tumblr website but it’s also TOO MUCH ALL AT ONCE. It’s like being dropped in the middle of a giant hall where everyone’s yelling but no one can hear each other. It is great for looking at pretty things, though, and I suppose if you want to blog but don’t want to deal with comments. It’s just not for me. I like my DW/LJ blanket fort, where I can talk with people one-on-one. Join me in my blanket fort!

It’s going to be very cold this weekend. I plan to do a lot of lying down on the couch with cups of tea, continuing to recover from surgery, and reading the latest installment in SallyExactly’s Partners. Perfect timing for a new chapter to be posted!

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/16733.html.
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it's art!
applewoman
I dropped a plastic-handled steak knife in the bottom of the dishwasher—turns out that was the source of the weird dreams I had that night, filled with a ghastly and inescapable chemical odor. A foul miasma of dying plastic lingers in the kitchen still, and all the plastic things that were in the dishwasher have been imbued with it. It’s enough to make me think maybe I should toss ALL the plastic kitchen stuff and start replacing it with glass and wood and metal, which has long been my dream anyway. But if it had been a wood-handled knife, would it have caught on fire? Scary thought.

The melted knife itself looks kinda cool, though—like a piece of modern sculpture. I brought it to work to show off.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/16581.html.
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Surgery for everyone!
applewoman
I have very little body shyness anymore when it comes to medical professionals. Two pregnancies and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease mean that everybody and her brother has been up my skirt.

So when one of my doctors asked if their nurse practitioner in training could examine my uterus too, I said, “Sure, why not?” She was very excited that she could tell my uterus was slightly tipped. I’ve been doing my part for education!

Next week I have an outpatient surgery scheduled to remove a polyp from my uterus. “We’re not concerned about it, but we don’t like to leave it in there,” they said. I don’t have any further use scheduled for my uterus, so I’m okay with the doctor rummaging around, though of course I wish she didn’t have to. She offered to do an endometrial ablation at the same time, which could help decrease the ridiculously heavy bleeding I’ve been suffering over the past year. I am on board with that. What else am I going to do in February, anyway? Nothing happens in February.

And next month my son gets braces put on. Do you know how much a full set of braces costs? I will tell you: $6,630. Insurance covers $1,000 of that. So now I know where all the HSA funds I’ve been saving up for the past few years will be going! Poor kid; he has an impacted tooth, we discovered, that has no place to come in.

I like his orthodontist. She’s originally from the East Coast: a tiny woman with long black hair and really killer black boots. (I so admired those boots!) She said, “I’m East Coast trained; we don’t believe in pulling teeth unless we have to. We’ll make room for all of them!” My dad had seven teeth pulled when he was my son’s age, and I had all my wisdom teeth out when I was not much older, so if we can avoid that sort of nonsense, I am all for it.

Next up, it looks like we’ll need to schedule eye surgery for my four-year-old daughter. It’s a routine procedure for correcting an issue where the eyes have trouble focusing together, and kids usually bounce back within a day or two, they said. But I am not looking forward to it.

Surgery all ‘round! Surgery for everyone!

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/16330.html.
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on a Voyage
applewoman
Has the flood of MCU fic slowed a bit lately? I have only one novel-length story on my Kindle right now, which I’m about 20% of the way through. (Thawed Out, by auburnnothenna & eretria, which is great, especially for all the ways in which Steve is failing to cope. Poor Steve!) I’m fascinated by all the very different but plausible Buckys people have created. Just when I think all possibilities have been exhausted, someone comes up with another approach.

Speaking of Kindles, I finally bought a Voyage after waffling about it for weeks. I was dubious about the haptic “buttons,” but they work pretty well, and I turned off the annoying feedback zap. And I’m using the touchscreen to turn pages more than I expected. Mostly, though, I LOVE the sharpness of the text. It really does look miles better than my previous old Kindle, even with the backlight turned off (I don’t know if staring at a slightly glowy screen will actually make it harder for me to sleep at night the way all those news stories warn, but I find it distracting while reading anyway). So my fic-reading experience has been enhanced!

In lieu of Steve & Bucky, I’m hoping for a flood of Agent Carter fic soon. It’s the only TV show I’m making time for ASAP after it airs. I find it often painful to watch, because it’s grounded in how people really live in this world in a way that Agents of SHIELD isn’t, and it’s sparked some interesting conversations between me and my husband about what it’s like to live as a woman. And Hayley Atwell is just SO GOOD as Peggy Carter.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/15770.html.
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user fail
applewoman
I screwed up the Agent Carter season pass on my TiVo and it is NOT RECORDING.

WOE.

Please tell me it will be available on iTunes tomorrow? I looked and it's not listed for purchase yet, but they have all of Agents of SHIELD, so surely they're going to have this one, too?

The one TV show that I actually MADE PLANS to watch. Aaaaargh.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/15598.html.
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reading habits
applewoman
I finished only 24 published books in 2014, but I read unbelievable amounts of fanfic. So much original fiction released this year intrigued me, but I was unable to commit to much. A friend who gave birth to her firstborn in July mentioned that she could only empathize with so many new people's stories before she was just too weary to engage, and I realized that was exactly my issue.

Reading is my primary method of relaxation, the way TV is for many people, so I'm glad fanfic let me have that still. (I don't watch TV very much. It makes me hyperaroused: jittery, anxious, and unsettled.)

I'm sad that I couldn't plunge into all these amazing authors' worlds as easily as when I was younger. But then I remember the great writers I first encountered in the last few years—Rosemary Kirstein and Laurie J. Marks, among others—and I think maybe I'm still having new reading experiences. Just not at the breakneck pace I did when I was a pre-teen browsing the SF/Fantasy section. And it helps to remember I'm in the thick of it right now—I work full-time, parent a four-year-old and a fourteen-year-old, and have some weird health issues to deal with, among other energy-sucking things.

Still, in 2015 I would really like to read more original fiction. If I made New Year's resolutions, I suppose that would be one.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/15132.html.
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Clean ALL the things!
applewoman
So much socializing with extended family over the past five days! Intensely emotional interludes with both my dad and his wife, not negative but still exhausting. My dad is so DRAMA. I love him and I enjoy seeing him, but everything goes to eleven when he's around. It's like being in a Hallmark movie of the week; people hold hands in restaurants and say heartfelt things while music swells. I'm usually vibrating like a tuning fork by the time he leaves.

Which is probably why I turned to decluttering my house on Sunday, one of my favorite methods of (not)dealing with things. (Though it does help lessen my anxiety if I don't get too perfectionist about it.) I was inspired by a book my sister-in-law bought from my wishlist, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Wow, the author is my soulmate. I'm pretty sure someone on my reading list recommended this book initially, so thank you, whoever you are!

One very helpful suggestion: Decide what you want to keep, not what you want to discard. A positive way of looking at the process! I like it. And ask yourself what "sparks joy" when you touch it, and then keep those things.

The author also suggests thanking an item for serving its purpose in your life as you let it go, even if all it did was provide a moment of pleasure when you first bought it. I like the spiritual element that practice brings. Working with the emotions around decluttering seems to work better for me than trying to be completely rational about it. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to work through her book and make a real change in my surroundings. Which, honestly, are not that cluttered to begin with! I'm a fairly organized person. It's just that owning so many things I'm not using feels immoral, and it bothers me that I can't even remember everything I own. And yet it's so easy to accumulate an obscene amount of stuff.

One of my husband's and my dreams is to retire to a condo or apartment in downtown Minneapolis. We could wander through the skyways all winter and walk along the river all summer. So I might as well begin reducing my possessions now!

I love the Minneapolis skyway system. It's like gerbil tunnels crossing over the streets from one building to another, and you can walk practically all over downtown without going out into sub-zero weather. Pretty soon they'll be hooking up the public library to the skyway system and opening up a Trader Joe's downtown, so I really would have everything I need in my old age.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/14892.html.
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year in music
applewoman
It's nearly time to make the year-in-music mix I give my Dad every Christmas Eve. I didn't listen to a lot of new music in 2014, and most of it came from my husband adding songs to our shared iTunes library. His workplace has music piped in, so he hears a lot more of the popular songs than I do.

One song that really stuck to me this year was Hozier's "Take Me to Church." My daughter made up her own version that she sings along to the actual song, but with lyrics almost entirely of her own creation. They're mostly sort of phonetic, made-up words that resemble the actual lyrics, with some real words mixed in.

My favorite lyric she's ever made up was to Katy Perry's "Roar." The line that goes, "'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar," my daughter sings "'Cause I am a genius..." which cracks me up every time.

What's the song (or songs) you couldn't live without in 2014?

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