29 September 2014

On-Hold: A Review of The Best of Connie Willis

To a certain degree, I am what I am thanks to the local library. Being a Mountie's daughter, I was moved across country, at best every four years.  Our family migrations were extreme adventures involving complicated packing days with professional movers efficiently securing our belongings up into cardboard boxes all tagged with blue tracking numbers. Those registration stickers were gold, and many a move I was banished from the front lawn for peeling off a few and sticking them to my knees, shoes and elbows. It was the early 80s, stickers were a rare and highly coveted kid commodity. The stress of those experiences weighed solely down upon my parents shoulders. Mom managed the emotional well-being of her kids by teaching us to embrace the experiences. New bedrooms, schools, friends, places to play were to be wondered, and discussed. Growing-up this way taught me to always look positively forward, understanding that a home was less a house and more the people with whom you called family. 

We moved from the high tides of The Bay of Fundy to the Yukon one summer, camping across country in a hard-top tent trailer, visiting family along the way. My childhood was mingled with clam-digging to sledding down frozen hills in forty below weather with the Northern Lights dancing above. I spent my early life getting to know this country better than most and forever am grateful for the decisions my parents made. 

And with all these moves, came the consistency of the local library system. There was not a town our family lived that we were not card-carrying library members. Having that constant kept me grounded, able to leave childhood friends behind, walk into new classrooms, and find my way with new groups of soon-to-be friends. Libraries were my first introduction to independence. I have fond memories of every library I frequented from the large, artfully decorated to the one-room, book-lined variety located in the basement of the community hall.

Today, my library experience has waned with my local containing a rather sad collection of SF books.  I think you can guess where I am leading, right back to dancing with the devil, reading mysteries and forgoing my geeky ways.  Cruise through the nearest library and you will quickly discover that beyond the literature section, mysteries reign as the genre of choice with SF but a sad collection of tattered paperback fantasy series, sprinkled with Star Wars editions and Asimov offerings. Care to discover what all the fuss is about regarding Ancillary Justice or My Real Children? Best to meander over to a well-stocked bookstore, cash in hand as your chances of borrowing any recently published novel will put you into the year 2016.  There is a reason why I have been buying books over these past years, the procurement of recent SF through the library is maddening at best. I'm sorry but being the 40th hold to read Cibola Burn is not going to cut it, someone pass me my Visa.

Nevertheless, I am currently on a library-only rule for spatial and frugal reasons, and found myself finally reading Connie Willis's The Best of Connie Willis: Award Winning Stories. (It was my last book in the SF stack.) Short stories always turn me into Goldilocks; they are either too short or aggravatingly too long, pushing way past the boundary of necessary detail.  Aware that most of my favourite SF writers cut their publishing teeth with submissions of their short story works, I should embrace this creative outlet more thoroughly but I cannot fight my reading tendencies. Give me a 'break-a-toe if dropped' hard-cover novel over a slim, well-executed 50 page thriller any day.

My enthusiasm for Black Out/All Clear is evident through out Thank the Maker, and while Connie Willis may have written two of my fave's in recent years, her collection of stories is not my cup of tea. The problem with reviewing books is that honestly must be your guiding principle. Thus, when confronted with a piece of work from an author I adore, initially I want to minimize the lacklustre review, omitting the fact that I skimmed at best, may have even tossed the book to the other corner of the room before finally putting it aside. For the record, no book was tossed during the writing of this review, for book throwing read thisMy only reprieve in my guilt is that I have yet to read a short story whether it be by Margaret Atwood or Kage Baker that has filled me with reading contentment. Even though the collection left me wanting to read a novel, I admit that brilliance is bound within, just bound within a writing format that I have yet to embrace and in all likelihood never will. 

And now if you would be so kind, I have a stack of murder mysteries to puzzle through while I impatiently wait for my 'holds' to arrive.

18 September 2014


I have been sharing Thank the Maker on various blog networking platforms in the hopes of making it rich. Diamonds have an unfortunate trait of not falling from trees nor does a line-of-credit stay static in the vaults of the banking netherworld like a well-behaved money dog. 

The summer was divine, the perfect ideal of no job, young son, shorts, museums intermingled with tears, disconnection and whining ( I am such a baby at times). The sunshine bubble has popped, reality looms larger than this past Super Moon and this Momma needs to rethink her options. Hence the half-assed attempt to hustle my blog on-line hoping that my insight into life's deeper question, the continued need to micromanage SF categories into extreme geeky definitions.  What is up with sub-categories? The time I spend on finding the correct fashionable descriptor for every book review post could be better spent with me actually reading more books. Could we, as a collective SF community just get over ourselves a little and let a book be a book.

Where was I? I am beginning to suss out why this blog may not be bringing in the big bucks.  That being said, I have been nominated for a Liebster award and am rather gleefully happy about it even though I am unsure what it really is. Can I admit to that?  As part of the requirements of the nomination and to ultimately unlock famedom/cashdom I need to fulfill a few requirements with one of those being, thanking my nominator,  Carla Wynker whose blog The Carla Diaries can be viewed here.  The second component is to answer 11 (why 11?) questions posed by my nominator and subsequently nominate 11 (once again, why?) other bloggers with less than 200 followers.  Somehow I feel like I am in the midst of chain letter, wait..
By the way dear readers, I did not want to bring this up but it has come to my attention that I only have 21 followers. I am quite aware more than 21 people are reading this very post so why don't you be a dear and follow Thank the Maker, making my dreams of ultimate power come to fruition. It's difficult to take over the world, one SF book review at a time when you only have 21 minions.  Glad we cleared that up, and now a brief interlude brought to you by Carla, who wants to get to know me just a little better. Rather than posting the questions I will creatively integrate them into an opinionated exposé of myself, forever cementing the fact that I am completely off my rocker.

Thank the Maker was created three years ago in the vain attempt to convince all my non-SF reading friends to sit down already and read SF.  But as with all truths there is the real truth behind why we do things, to find out the real story behind the blog revisit Things:  A Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  At this point, Carla wants to know what my favourite book of all time is, if you don't know by now then there is no hope for us being besties (spoiler alert: Dune). And while there are quite a few wonderful characters in the Dune series, morphing my husband into one of them is just darn creepy. Sure, it would be kinda cool if he was Batman but I think that is my son's idea of perfection, not mine.  As for my favourite book character, that is difficult as I am more about world building and plot development and couldn't possibly pick one Miles  over the other.  Saigon continues to be the city I want most to be found sitting along side a busy intersection slurping noodles contentedly with my husband, having packed only flat shoes in my travel bag, and trying ineffectively to read the only book I brought more slowly. 

Desert island questions are leading as I would much rather not be there at all, having in all probability fallen out of boat, but if I must choose I would bring a tarp, a knife and a flint.  Listen, years of Survivor watching has taught me a few things, as had the endless amounts of Flintstones re-runs I took in as a kid; there is not an episode of life that cannot be directly segued to Fred and Wilma.  Current favourite wardrobe item is my newly purchased bunny hug, which to everyone beyond the province of Saskatchewan is a hoodie.  And with this very cosy sweater, I will go out this afternoon to combine my three hobbies, walking, bench sitting and reading.  

Although this is less an award and more a means to support each other in the guise of a tween chain letter, here are my four, (11 is too much!) nominations for the Liebster Award: Still Life with Birder, The Dork Portal, Nigel G. Mitchell , This Space Intentionally Left Blank.  Do what you will with the award, blogger friends. Sometimes it is nice just to be singled-out and given the opportunity to ramble on about yourself.  My 4 (yes 4) questions are: who's your Daddy, what did he teach you, why are you blogging, the real reason please, and the most over-rated book you have read. 

As for my minions, start following, we have work to do.