Random (but not really)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

15 Question SFF Book Meme!

From SF Signal: A 15 Question Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Book Meme – SF/F/H Reading/Buying Habits

What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading?
Midnight Riot (audio version) by Ben Aaronovitch

What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading and why?
This is harder, as I read multiple books at once, and frequently start books that I never get back to, simply because there are too many other books to read one that doesn’t hold my interest.

What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you liked but most people didn’t?
I honestly I have no idea. I frequently re-read David Eddings Belgariad, but I don’t think that’s what the question is asking.

What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you disliked but most people did?
I abandoned the Sookie Stackouse series. I loved the initial books, but HATED it when it turned into a giant “everyone loves Sookie” fest. Bletch.

How long do your 1-sitting reading sessions usually last?
As long as I have time. I can spend an entire day reading–if I have an entire day.

What are you currently reading?
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
Bonk by Mary Roach
Downfall by Rob Thurman
Thieves’ Quarry by DB Jackson

Do you like it so far?
Of course.
I’m having a hard time getting into this one.
OMG yes.
I’ve put this down several times, because I fear it is going to be the last Cal book.
Wasn’t what I was in the mood for when I picked it up, but keep coming back to it.

How long ago did you buy the book you are currently reading (or the last book you read)?
Some of them in the past two weeks, some of them… months ago? I own the Sherlock Holmes in HB, so I re-bought the eBook.

What was the last physical sf/f/h book you bought?
Fables: Camelot by Bill Willingham et al (that one is ALSO waiting for me to pick it up)

What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you like the most and why?
I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy–like Charles de Lint–and supernatural mysteries–like Simon R Green. I love mysteries, and I adore mysteries with supernatural or fantastic elements. I also like them because they tend to be single books that I can read in a gulp, but am not left with a damned cliff-hanger.

What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you dislike the most and why?
I don’t read SF, because I just plain don’t enjoy it. I dislike dystopias for a similar reason–they make me feel miserable. I’ll feel terrible for hours after finishing a dystopia. Since my brain can do that all on its own, I avoid things that make me feel bad. I also don’t read horror because I don’t like to be scared. (Fantasy with elements of horror is generally find, as long as it’s not scary.)

What is your favorite electronic reading device?
I love my kindle paperwhite so very very very very much. It has a purple cover, and feels so much like reading a book, only it doesn’t hurt my hands to hold.

What was the last sf/f/h eBook you bought?
Three pre-orders arrived at the same time:
Seanan McGuire – Winterlong
Patricia Briggs – Shifting Shadows
Fables: Camelot by Bill Willinghame et al

Do you read books exclusively in 1 format (physical/electronic)?
No. But I am partial to fiction in eBook format, and to comics/graphic novels in Trade Paperback format.

Do you read eBooks exclusively on a single device (eBook reader/ smartphone / tablet)?
Nope. I read on whatever is at hand. If I have a few minutes to wait, I read on my phone. If it’s a cookbook, I read it on the Fire. My bedtime reading is often on my Kindle keyboard (it contains mostly non-fiction, which I prefer to read before bed). Most everything else I read on the paper white.

How about you?

Written by Michelle at 8:57 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Books of August

Lots of historicals this month, both romances (!) and mysteries. Just in the mood for something different I suppose.

Fifteen books in August, bringing me to a total of 120 for the year so far.

The best books of the month:
The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan was FABULOUS. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about this story. You should go read it now.
Kitty’s Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn I always seem to forget how good Carrie Vaughn is with short stories, until I read one, and then I want to read more.

Fantasy, Supernatural

Kitty’s Greatest Hits (2011) Carrie Vaughn (9/10)
Jane Yellowrock
Cat Tales: Four Stories from the World of Jane Yellowrock (2011) Faith Hunter (7/10)
Have Stakes Will Travel: Stories From the World of Jane Yellowrock (2012) Faith Hunter (8.5/10)
Jane Yellowrock World Companion (2013) Faith Hunter (7/10)
Black Arts (2014) Faith Hunter (8.5/10)

Mystery, Historical

Flavia deLuce
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (2011) Alan Bradley (7/10)
Lady Emily
A Poisoned Season (2007) Tasha Alexander (7/10)
A Fatal Waltz (2008) Tasha Alexander (7/10)
Lady Julia Grey
Silent on the Moor (2009) Deanna Raybourn (6.5/10)
Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch
The Paris Affair (2013) Teresa Grant (7/10)

Romance, Historical

Lord and Lady Spy (2011) Shana Galen (3/10)
The Brothers Sinister
The Duchess War (2012) Courtney Milan (7/10)
The Heiress Effect (2013) Courtney Milan (8/10)
The Countess Conspiracy (2013) Courtney Milan (9/10)

Audio Books

Skinwalker (Audio Version) (2009/2010) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam (8/10)

So, now my favorite part! The stats!

8 re-reads this month, three of which I have in multiple formats. So the publishing industry isn’t losing much, even though I try to pay no more than $3 for a book I already own in paper.

Paperback: 1
Trade Paperback: 1
eBook: 13
Audio: 1

Lots of romance this month, and lots of mysteries. Almost all of which were historicals. Sometimes, you just need to put your mind in a different time period.

Fantasy: 6
Mystery: 9
Romance: 8
Anthology: 1

And all those romance novels mean that I read a LOT of female authors this month.

Male: 1
Female: 14

For the year, the percentage of mail authors I’ve read is down to 35%. Of course, the first two books of September were both by male authors, so I’m still getting some variety in my diet.

But really, I can’t recommend The Countess Conspiracy enough. It’s all geeky and marvelous.

Written by Michelle at 6:55 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory



Chimney Sweeps


Textile Mills




Coal Mines


They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker Mine in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 10 January 1911, from a 1908-1912 series on...

You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair





Upper Big Branch


child labor today 1

child labor today 2

child labor today 3


child labor today 4

And that is why, despite all the disappointments, I remain a Democrat.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: History,Holidays  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hiking WV: Holly River State Park

Due to events beyond our control, we arrived at the park much later than expected. That, combined with the heat, meant we only took a partial hike along the Left Fork of the Holly River.

It was utterly gorgeous, and I very much want to go back and hike the Potato Ridge trail complete, as well as other trails in the park.

The park office provides maps with distances as well as an elevation graph.

Location: Holly River State Park
Trail: Potato Ridge Trail (partial)
River: Left Fork Holly River
Distance: 3.6 miles (we only hiked 1.7 miles)

This trail is NOT going to be accessible after a rain or when the river is running high. Not unless you want to get your feet wet.


The Potato Ridge trail abuts private property, so local residents will ride their 4-wheelers off park territory to visit the river. When we got to Shupe’s Chute, there was a father with his young son (probably about 4) sitting on the rocks watching the water. When we arrive, the son excitedly told us that the water was VERY fast, and picked up leaves to throw into the water.

It was, in fact, very fast.


Shupe’s Chute was pretty fascinating. I’ve tried to stitch together three pictures so you can see it in its entirety, but I don’t think it worked really well.


Then when we mentioned we were going to hike down to the lower falls, he begged his dad to go down to the lower falls too. When we passed them later (them heading back, us heading down) the boy excitedly told us that if we crossed the river, we could even go UNDER the falls.

He was delightful.




Written by Michelle at 10:53 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hiking WV: Audra State Park

Cooler weather and an influx of horrific traffic to Morgantown got us on the road again, this time to Audra State Park.

The Girst Mill (it’s earlier use) is long gone, except for a grinding stone, but the Alum Cave trail along the river has multiple paths to wander down to the water, where you can swim and sunbathe in relative isolation if you’re willing to hike a bit.

I really like Audra. It’s not a particularly strenuous hike (we went out and back the same way, because I prefer to walk closer to the water) but it’s very pretty, and has lots of options for going down to the water.

Location: Audra State Park
Trail: Alum Cave Trail
River: Middle Fork River
Distance: 2.9 miles
Ascent: 497 feet

I love the board walk. It’s more solid than it looks.




We had a long discussion about this root formation:


Rotting logs can be absolutely fascinating:


And lots of paths to get down to the water:



GPS map of hike

Written by Michelle at 9:01 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Metal Chickens,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Non-Hiking Trip to Blackwater Falls

But it was better than all the other trips this year!

Ice cream was made…


…and eaten!


There was walking…


…and jumping.


Rocks were picked up and checked under.


Big sticks were found and carried.


Stairs were climbed…


…as were rocks.


It was a marvelous day.


Written by Michelle at 9:19 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Family,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Books of July

I didn’t read much towards the start of the month, but towards the end of the month I had a case of the blues, and then I got sick, so I suddenly read a lot.

Which was perfectly fine with me.

I read some really good books, and I read absolutely one abysmal book. We’re talking a book that had me ranting for days after I finished it.

The best books of the month were re-reads: A Fistful Of Sky by Nina Kiriki HoffmanRising Stars by J. Michael Straczynski, and the Jane Yellowrock series, by Faith Hunter . Plus one new read, the anthology Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran which was very good.

Fantasy: Supernatural

A Fistful Of Sky (2002) Nina Kiriki Hoffman  (10/10)
Dirty Magic (2014) Jaye Wells (7/10)
Urban Shaman (2005) C.E. Murphy  (6.5/10)
Jane Yellowrock:
Skinwalker  (2009) Faith Hunter  (8/10)
Blood Cross  (2010) Faith Hunter  (8/10)
Mercy Blade  (2011) Faith Hunter  (7/10)
Raven Cursed  (2012) Faith Hunter (8/10)
Death’s Rival  (2012) Faith Hunter  (8/10)
Blood Trade  (2013) Faith Hunter  (8/10)

Fantasy: Anthology

Magic City: Recent Spells (2014) Paula Guran  (8.5/10)
Strange Brew  (2009) edited by P.N. Elrod (7/10)

Fantasy: Historical / Steampunk

Farthing  (2006) Jo Walton  (7/10)
Hounds of Autumn  (2013) Heather Blackwood  (2/10)

Comic / Graphic Novel

Rising Stars: Born in Fire, Power, Fire and Ash  (2001-2005) J. Michael Straczynski, Keu Cha, Ken Lashley et al  (10/10)
Hellboy: The Midnight Circus  (2013) Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Dave Stewart (7/10)
Hellboy in Hell Volume 1: The Descent  (2014) Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart (7/10)
Local  (2008) Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly  (NR)

And now for my favorite part: THE NUMBERS!

I read 17 books this month, bringing the total so far this year to 105 books. I’m averaging 15 books a month, which is my highest average yet. But I’m sure that’ll drop down when cooler weather hits and I get outside more.

Because I had so many re-reads (8), I actually read more paper books than ebooks. The trade paperbacks were all comics, and I fully admit that I really prefer reading comics on paper. (The things that are supposed to increase your ereading pleasure with comics actually take me out of the story. But I’ll keep trying.)

Paperback: 6
Trade Paperback: 3
eBook: 8

I read mostly fantasy this month (with even the comics mostly in the fantasy genre).

Fantasy: 15
Mystery: 7
Romance: 2
YA: 1
Comic: 4
Anthology: 2

And I read very heavily of female authors this month.

Male: 2
Female: 11
Anthology: 4

Which brings the straight-up male:female ratio 1:1.

Male: 38%
Female: 38%
Joint + Anthology: 14%
Initials: 9%
Male Pseudonym: 2%

However, when you consider that the overwhelming majority of authors I read who are writing under initials are women, and a number of women writing under male pseudonyms, almost half the books I’ve read this year were written by women. Not too bad.

Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ark!

We went to Frostburg to have dinner for my Dad’s birthday, and I talked my parents into stopping by The Ark!

Look! Here we are!


Ta DA!


We’re in luck! Clear skies!


It’s large, but it’s not THAT large. Guess that’s why the dinosaurs couldn’t fit.



I’m guessing this is the ramp for the animals to go down into the hold. Not much headroom for the elephants and giraffes.


All the cement is crumbling.


The footers (again, crumbling) were poured for a much larger structure than the existing steel super structure.



There you go! A closer look at the Ark, a structure that has provided hours of amusement over the years.

There are several more pictures if you click through to Flickr.

Written by Michelle at 8:54 am      Comments (5)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Non-Sequiturs,Photos  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hiking WV: Cedar Creek State Park

Location: Cedar Creek State Park
Trail: Stone Trough Trail
Distance: 3.0 miles
Elevation: 814 feet

The trail was slightly problematic at two parts. At the sealed oil well pipe, when coming up from the stone trough, it took us a long time to pick the trail back up. (You head right, and then head back up the hill.) And towards the end of the trail (for us) the trail suddenly went down a very steep hill. The rest of the trail was relatively easy, but this part was not.

This is not the sealed gas/oil head. This was a random, rusting piece of machinery.







“Yes, you’re really going that way.”


That was moderately steep.


Yeah, a bit steep here.


“We’re not kidding. You go pretty much straight up here.”


GPS map of the trail.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Cedar Creek

Yeah, so, I’m stretching things this week. But they were flowers once!




There were a LOT of recently downed trees, as well as a lot of recently downed snags.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Word Association: BOOM Edition

Today’s word is: thunder

Written by Michelle at 7:14 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Fun & Games  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fun with Jules

Like many females on the planet, I am uncomfortable with how I look in a swimsuit. I sometimes cringe when I see a picture of myself dressed, so bathing suits are like an explosion of self-loathing.

However, I’ve refused to let that stop me from swimming, because the only person who cares about what I’m wearing is Jules, who needs me to be able to swim and horse around with her.




We also went to Valley Falls.





It was a very good day.


Written by Michelle at 8:03 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Family,Julliene,Photos  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Flower Pr0n: DAY LILIES!

I do, in fact, have many cultivars of day lilies. And they’re all blooming right now.






I have a couple other things blooming as well.

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)




Gerbera daisies. I didn’t get an orange flower this year, which is too bad, because they’re my favorite.



Written by Michelle at 10:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,House & Garden,Photos  

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Coopers Rock

Here are some of the flowers we saw blooming at Coopers Rock.

Rhododendron are blooming in some areas of the forest:



OMG! It’s a YIP YIP!


Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos,State Parks  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hiking West Virginia: Coopers Rock, Mont Chateau Trail to Cheat Lake

Location: Coopers Rock
Trails: Henry Clay Iron Furnace Trail, Mont Chateau Trail to Cheat Lake
Distance: 5.3 miles
Elevation: 1371 feet

Henry Clay Iron Furnace Trail (one way)
Distance: 0.9 miles
Elevation: 267 feet

Mont Chateau Trail to Cheat Lake (one way)
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation: 739 feet

The best park of the hike was switching from boots to water shoes and hiking in the creek. We managed 0.6 miles in about an hour, which was pretty good, since it was a lot of trying to figure out how to move get up rocks or around deep pools.

The balanced rocks are still there!



Coopers Rock




Map of complete hike

Written by Michelle at 11:33 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hiking West Virginia: North Bend State Park

Thursday, on our way back from the Mountain State Arts and Craft Fair at Ripley, we stopped at North Bend State Park for a brief hike.

Location: North Bend State Park
Trails: Overhanging Rock Trail, Extra Mile Trail, Oil Well Access Trail to North Bend Rail Trail
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 375 feet

It’s a rail trail, so it’s quite flat (for WV).

The Extra Mile trail is a paved and has handrails on both sides, for visual and mobility limited visitors. (Amusingly, we saw this at the END of the trail, so came up with many theories as to why there were railings on both sides of the paved trail.)

It links to the North Bend Rail trail, at Tunnel 13 and the bridge over Bonds Creek.


Tunnel 13, South Entrance


Tunnel 13, North Entrance


Remains of train platform:



Map of hike

Written by Michelle at 7:39 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

The Books of June

I read a surprising number of books in June. Possible because I rained and rained and rained and rained. Again.

At this halfway point in the year, I’ve read 88 books, so I shouldn’t have any problems reaching my goal of 124 books. Can I beat last year’s count of 174? I dunno, but it’ll be fun to try.

The best books of the month were:

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach (10/10)
Fairest Vol. 3: The Return of the Maharaja (9/10)
Legion by Brandon Sanderson (8.5/10)

If you’re looking for something to read, I highly recommend any of the above books.

Fantasy: Anthology / Novella / Short Story

Dangerous Women (2013) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (5.5/10)
(2012) Brandon Sanderson (8.5/10)

Fantasy: Steampunk

Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship’s Curse (2013) Lynn Viehl (4/10)
Disenchanted & Co., Part 2: His Lordship Possessed (2013) Lynn Viehl (2/10)



Angelica’s Smile (2010/2014) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli (5/10)
The Draining Lake (2004/2007) Arnaldur Indridason translated by Bernard Scudder (8.5/10)
Arctic Chill (2005/2009) Arnaldur Indriðason and translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb (8.5/10)

The Archangel Project (2008) C.S. Graham (8/10)

Mystery: Historical

Silent in the Grave (2007) Deanna Raybourn (7.5/10)
Silent in the Sanctuary (2009) Deanna Raybourn (7/10)



Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013) Mary Roach (10/10)


Comic / Graphic Novel

Fairest Vol. 3: The Return of the Maharaja (2014) Sean E. Williams, Stephen Sadowski, Phil Jimenez (9/10)


Audio Book

Something from the Nightside (Audio Version) (2003/2008) Simon R. Green narrated by Marc Vietor (8/10)

The format I read most continues to be eBooks, with about 3/4 of the books I’ve read this year being in electronic format.

Trade Paperback: 1
eBook: 11
Audio: 1

Multiple Formats: 1
Re-read: 3

As for genres read, mystery lead the pack this year, and is running neck-and-neck this year with fantasy.

Fantasy: 6
Mystery: 8
Romance: 2
Comic: 1
Anthology: 1
Non-Fiction: 1

And the gender count this month has men slightly ahead in the count for the month, but women are still slightly ahead for the year, 45%:43% so that’s not too bad.

Male: 5
Female: 2
Initials: 1
Joint + Anthology: 2

Written by Michelle at 10:03 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Word Association: Yummy Edition

Today’s word is: chocolate!

Written by Michelle at 7:10 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Fun & Games  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock, Scotts Run & Roadside Trails

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Scott Run and Roadside Trails
Distance: 5.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1038 ft

Scott Run Trail
2.9 miles
763 ft elevation gain

Roadside Trail
1.8 miles
187 ft elevation gain






Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Morgantown,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Around the House

Here’s what’s blooming around my house right now

Why yes! Lots of day lilies!





I love the variety of day lilies. I know they’re relatively subtle color changes, but they fascinate me.




Written by Michelle at 11:31 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,House & Garden,Photos  
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