Farewell, 2017!

So, uh, it’s been a while… How are you? How’s your… local sports team? Actually, mine’s doing unexpectedly great this year, thanks for asking!

It’s finally been of reasonable weather quality in Northeast Florida, so I’ve been spending most of the last couple months outside enjoying nature. This has apparently led to a stress injury in my ankle, and one of my early New Year’s Resolutions is to stop compounding injuries by ignoring them, so I come to you from my couch on a perfectly beautiful day. At least I have lots of indoor activities I can enjoy! Speaking of, let’s talk about what I’ve been up to the past two months!

Reading
I’ve read quite a few things in the last couple months, but I’ll just do a couple highlights (one lowlight?) here.

A Lot Like ChristmasMy absolute favorite of the books I’ve read recently is A Lot Like Christmas, which is an updated collection of Connie Willis’s short stories set around Christmas. I legit loved every story in this collection, which is a feat unmatched, I think, and I found myself just a couple stories in taking a break to set up my (very tiny) Christmas tree so I could read by tree light. I’m not a super Christmas-y person — I have my traditions and I like those but everything else can go jump in a lake — but I really felt imbued with the Christmas spirit while reading this book. It might be a little late for you to read this, depending on your personal Christmas temperament, but you should definitely keep it in mind for next year.

Pride and Prejudice and MistletoeMy least favorite was the also Christmas-themed Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, which I was all over when I heard the sales pitch: a gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view. What? Yes! Give it! Unfortunately, the actual result is more like a remixed Pride and Prejudice — it hits most of the big beats of the original story but they’re changed enough that it’s not the same story at all and it’s not a good story and it also ends about six chapters later than it should after way too much introspection and it’s just… bad. It’s possible that if you’re not expecting Pride and Prejudice you’ll like this better, but I’m pretty sure it’s a hot mess either way.

Listening
My audiobook listening has slowed down a bit this fall as I’ve picked up a couple new podcasts. One is Call Your Girlfriend, a podcast that’s more or less a conversation between two long-distance best friends about whatever’s going on in the world at the time. The other is Waypoint Radio, a second video game podcast to complement the still-the-best What’s Good Games and to cause my video-game TB…P, I guess, list to grow ever larger.

GroceryHowever, I have enjoyed two great audiobooks since last we met. Grocery is a fantastic book for people like me (and the author’s father) who are obsessed with grocery stores and how they work and how food gets to them and how food trends have changed in general over the past while, and possibly also just people from Cleveland who love Heinen’s, a small chain which features prominently in the book. I love all of these things and I loved this book. I also loved The Nature Fix, which validated all my time spent outdoors and also encouraged me to do it more, so, uh, once this ankle’s all better it might be a while ’til I post here again.

Watching
S.H.I.E.L.D. finally came back and it is as weird and awesome as it is at its best. No spoilers, but it’s crazy and I’m looking forward to seeing how it resolves the very strange loop it’s put itself in. I’ve also seen a few excellent movies recently, including, unexpectedly, Thor: Ragnarok. I really hated the other Thor movies, but one should never doubt Taika Waititi and his ability to make things awesome. The best movie I’ve seen possibly all year is Coco, which had me ugly crying in the theater next to my sister-in-law, who was glad I was crying so she wouldn’t feel bad about crying. It’s adorable and wonderful but it is also VERY VERY SAD FOR GROWNUPS. You’ve been warned.

Playing
I’ve been spending a lot of time on Rocket League lately, collecting snowflakes to open loot boxes because I want a pretty car, dang it! Also I really like playing soccer with cars. It is the best. I’ve also been spending some time with Super Mario Odyssey, which I bought kind of on a whim when it was on sale and am enjoying WAY more than I thought I was going to. I don’t think I’ve ever played more than a few minutes of a Mario adventure game (I’m more a Mario Kart and Mario Party girl), and clearly I have been missing out.

But the best is that I’m just after finishing Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which is a prequel to the super excellent Life is Strange and while of course I think the original is better, this one is differently good and is also very very sad for grownups, where “grownups” equals “people who played Life is Strange and can therefore see into the future”. I am quite interested to see what happens when the original company comes back with another round of the game next year.

What are you guys finishing out your year with?

Crosstalk, by Connie Willis

CrosstalkI have been searching for a couple of years for a cute, quirky romance story as good as Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, with varying results. I have also been meaning to read more Connie Willis since I read To Say Nothing of the Dog even longer ago. So when I saw that Connie Willis wrote a cute, quirky romance story involving technology and telepathy? SOLD.

The slightly convoluted premise of this story is that in a world full of smartphones and social media, new technology has been created that allows, with a bit of surgery, couples who are emotionally bonded metaphorically to become literally emotionally bonded, with the technology allowing each person to feel the other’s emotions. This is… great?, in that it means you’ll always know if your partner loves you and how they’re feeling whether they want to tell you or not, but of course it’s awful for ALL SORTS of reasons. Our protagonist, Briddey, who does some sort of important job for a smartphone-related company, is asked by her boyfriend, Trent, who does some slightly more important job for the same company, to undergo this procedure, and she’s like, sure. But after she wakes up from the anesthesia, she discovers she’s not emotionally connected to Trent but rather telepathically connected to her sub-basement-dwelling coworker, C.B., who can hear all of her thoughts and who has a decidedly told-you-so attitude about this surgery.

Got that? Good, because things only get crazier from there.

I loved so much of this novel largely because Connie Willis speaks my humor language, writing sentences like, “And when she looked through the door’s glass-and-wire mesh window into the lab, C.B. was wearing a pea coat, a wool muffler, and fingerless gloves. And cargo shorts and flip-flops.” And “I’ve got just the thing. An app that translates what you say into what people want to hear. I text you, ‘You’re an idiot to be having brain surgery for any reason, let alone for some infantile notion that it’ll bring you true love,’ and the phone sends it as ‘Wow! Trent asked you to get an EED! How romantic!'”

And Willis does this amazing thing with her sentences that makes them feel rushed, like you have to read them as fast as you can before Briddey’s crazy Irish family shows up on your doorstep to tell you all about their every crisis, real or imagined. It’s a really neat trick and a clever commentary on the age of social media and all the information we’re asked to take in, but it’s also great because this book flies by.

Well, the first half or so does, anyway. Once we get out of the “Holy Mae Jemison what is even going on why am I telepathic what is Trent going to think oh god I can hear all the voices” bit and into the “Hey, this is how telepathy works and how you can make it work for you” bit the going is sooooo sloooooooow. Yes, it’s interesting that you thought this through, Connie Willis, but if we could get back to the flirting and the cuteness THAT WOULD BE GREAT.

The flirting and cuteness bits are also only pretty good, and the pacing of the romance storyline is like that of most such storylines, which is to say completely unrealistic, which makes this not the match for Attachments that I was hoping for.

I think if maybe Willis had given herself 300 pages to work with instead of 500, I would have liked this better — less explanation, more telepathy and cuteness. But, to be fair, I would not cut a single word of crazy Irish family banter because that is the best.

If you’re more forgiving of a romance storyline than I am, or if you have an author-crush on Connie Willis, I think you’ll enjoy this book just fine.