Tag Archives: spring thing

Dewey’s Read-a-thon, Spring 2012

Dewey's Read-a-ThonDewey’s 24-hour Read-a-Thon – Spring Edition!

Now, I fully realize that it’s a bit silly to spend the whole day reading for no better reason than other people, mostly strangers, are doing it on the internet, but it is one of those hermity things that I very much enjoy. In fact, I look forward to it like kid looks forward to Christmas. It’s an excuse to relax, quietly, and read.

Starting at 5am tomorrow and going as long as possible, I’ll be reading. And probably blogging some, most definitely writing some (since I’m behind on my writing), and probably doing some random house cleaning as I stretch my stiff back.

The TBR List

From my usual weekly reading:

  • A couple of chapters of  A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin.
  • At least a short story from Steven Millhauser’s The Barnum Museum (been looking forward to starting this anthology)
  • Read a few poems from Minorities
  • Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011),

And when I’m done with that I’ll move on to:

And who knows what else! I’m pretty bad at keeping to lists and I’m a slow reader.

My fridge is stocked with highly caffeinated beverages, left-over Easter candy, and pizza bread. Plus, I have a husband that will probably gather grub for me.

It should be a good day.

Book #7

People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy by edited by Rachel Swirsky & Sean Wallace

My husband jokes that I bought this anthology only for the Peter S. Beagle story. This is, in fact, not entirely true. I had already read “Uncle Chiam and Aunt Rifke and the Angel,” but Beagle’s inclusion definitely gave this collection some weight. The deciding factor was Rachel Swirsky as co-editor. I’m not a huge reader of current fiction. If I get to a book within five years of it being published, that’s akin to traveling at light speed for me. The exception is my yearly attempt to read the Nebula and/or Hugo nominees before the winners are announced. Through this process, Rachel Swirsky’s short stories appeared on my radar and haven’t left.

I found the anthology to be strong on the whole, but there were a couple of stories, like Michael Blumlein’s “Fidelity: A Primer,” that seemed to lack speculative aspects. To me, speculative elements can’t entirely exist in a character’s mind. There has to be some…manifestation, or some true question about what’s real. Otherwise,  it’s no different than literary fiction. I also would have like a little more future-set science fiction. Matthew Kressel’s sci-fi tale “A History Within Us” was a great way to end the anthology, but it made me realize what was missing.

Other outstanding stories:

“The Dybbuk in Love” by Sonya Taaffe – A beautiful, near-perfect short story.

“The Muldoon” by Glen Hirshberg – The creepiest thing I’ve read in a long while. I have Hirshberg’s The Two Sams heading my way.

“Golems I Have Known…” by Michael Chabon – A story is about being a writer. I remember now why I have The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay on my shelf, but I don’t understand why I haven’t read it.

Book #6

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away by Jennette Fulda

I had been following Jennette Fulda’s Pasta Queen blog, about her weight loss, for quite a while when she revealed that she had a headache that wouldn’t go away. She’d had it for months.

“Well, that’s not good,” was my silent understated response. I’d had manageable headaches, both sinus-related and migraines, since my teens. I knew how awful a headache could be. As a internet voyeur to her life, I was concerned and curious about her treatments and her stories about coping with it. Fulda is an entertaining, honest writer. She was amazingly sensible about her weight-loss. But blog posts about her headache were few and far between. It’s a few years later now and I understand why, even before reading Chocolate & Vicodin, she didn’t blog about it much.

Chronic pain is a difficult thing to savvy. Everyone has pain once in a while, but we *know* that it goes away. Except, sometimes it doesn’t. Like really huge numbers, it’s hard to wrap your brain around the concept of constant pain. This goes for sufferers and non-sufferers alike. We immediately want to know why the pain exists and what can be done to make it go away. The answers (if there are answers) are not simple, but we want them to be. Jennette writes about the anger, guilt, and depression that goes along with suddenly being thrown into a situation that’s confusing and literally painful.* Well-meaning people, bent on finding solutions for her, do not really help. The nature of the internet is one of interaction; sometimes, it’s counter-productive to be interactive. Plus, when you live with something that constantly takes attention, you don’t really feel like mentioning it as much as you deal with it.**

Jennette also touches on the nature of narrative in this memoir, and I think maybe that’s where human beings get stuck. We want an ending, preferably a happy one. Chronic illnesses don’t have an ending. As far as I know, Jennette still has her headache. By the last page of this memoir, she’s learned to deal with it somewhat, to use the good days, to not spend her time waiting for the headache to go away. But there’s no real end to her story. Chronic is the antithesis of story and we’re left dealing with how unnatural that seems.

This book was a quick read. Fulda is still entertaining, honest, and sensible.

* Unlike Fulda’s headache, the arthritis pain I deal with has been slowly creeping up on me for  the past fifteen years. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.

** I don’t write much about my RA. It’s boring to me to write about it.

Didn’t Finish #2

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn

The title is huge and overly verbose. So is the book.

I made it to page 163 or so before putting it aside.

In 1992, a shipping container filled with plastic bath toys went overboard during a storm in the northern Pacific Ocean. In the years that followed, the toys washed up on beaches in Alaska, Australia, and the United Kingdom.  How does this happen? Are plastic tub buddies even that durable? “Ocean currents” and “apparently so” seem to be the answers.

Donovan Hohn heard the story and became obsessed by it. Unfortunately, Moby-Duck is about Hohn’s obsession not the ducks, beavers, turtles, and frogs. His tale meanders, touching on science peripherally as he travels to Alaska and Hawaii (and other places that I didn’t get to). The narrative is awash in minutia, not of a scientific sort, but of the literary sort. Many of the reviews I read complained about the dense science material, but maybe I just didn’t get there. Instead, Hohn goes on about the boats and the landscapes, and blithely categorizes the people he interacts with. While I did learn a few things*, Hohn never goes into enough depth to keep my interest.

Abstruse Goose had a strip a week or so ago that seems applicable.

All in all, there was too much fluff and not enough crunch.

*For instance, cargo is lost overboard all the time. If shipping companies would actually cop to it, we could devise a very interesting portrait of ocean currents. The accident in 1992 was more well documented than most.

Spring Reading Thing 2012

Looking for a fun, low-stress reading challenge? Katrina at Callapidder Days is hosting Spring Reading Thing. Make your list, link your link, read your books, wrap it up! The challenge runs from March 20th to June 20th!

Here’s my list for Spring Thing 2012:

I’ve been reading at least one short work a week which means that by the end of April I should finish People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction (5 stories left). Next up isThe Barnum Museum by Steven Millhauser. I should be able to read most of it (10 stories) during Spring Reading Thing. I’m also reading the available Nebula award nominees. The winners will be announced May 19th. I might be able to finish the short stories and novelettes by then. (4 short stories, 2 novelettes. Haven’t started on the novellas.)

Finish: Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea… by Donovan Hohn (Might be rough since I have to return it to the library on April 2nd and Hohn is *verbose*.)

Read a couple of recent Smashwords acquisitions:

And maybe I’ll get to:

  • Chocolate & Vicodin by Jennette Fulda
  • The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

Plus, keep up with  my weekly poetry and weekly chapters of George R. R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings.

Spring Reading Thing Recap

I finished seven books during the Spring Reading Thing, and started a bunch more. I was helped  somewhat by two other overlapping events:  Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon and #ToBeReMo.

Did you finish reading all the books on your spring reading list? If not, why not? Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?

My initial list was hijacked by a trip to the library and a new reading/free writing plan, but that’s just fine. Any list I make is pretty malleable. 😉 Below is my original list. Completed books are crossed out.

  • Finish Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter (Women of Fantasy, Spec Fic)
  • The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Women of Science Fiction, Spec Fic)
  • Finish Jo’s Girls ed. by Christian McEwen
  • Finish Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle (Spec Fic)
  • Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff (Read Me Baby)
  • The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow (Spec Fic)
  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (Read Me Baby)
  • The Call of Stories by Robert Coles (Read Me Baby)

I actually did not finish Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book. After reading half of it, I found that I did not care for it. I did start reading Coles’ The Call of Stories, but decided that I wanted to read I, Asimov instead. That’s enough writers writing about writing at once.

Additionally, I read short stories and novellas, Shutter Island, Wild Mind, Torn Wings and Faux Pas, and Moneyball. All my reading notes can be found under the “spring thing” tag.

What was your favorite book that you read this spring? Least favorite? Why?

Favorite? Peter Beagle’s Sleight of Hand. It’s a slightly uneven anthology, but the best stories are very, very good. I would expect to say that the Schmendrick story would be my favorite, but “The Rabbi’s Hobby” might rank as one of my favorite stories, ever.  Least favorite? I didn’t find either of the books that I read through the Women of Science Fiction to be very good. Willis’, I gave up on because it was very long winded and the technology wasn’t even at all. Prospero Lost wasn’t a really a whole story, but wasn’t compelling enough for me to want to read the next installment.

Did you discover a new author or genre this spring? Did you love them? Not love them?

Of the authors whose books I finished, Willis and Lamplighter were the authors I had not read previously. I didn’t care for either. I’m a pretty hard sell.

Did you learn something new because of Spring Reading Thing 2011 – something about reading, about yourself, or about a topic you read about?

I knew almost nothing about baseball before I read Moneyball. I also started using Goodreads during Spring Reading Thing and have realize how mush of a compulsive book starter I am. I’m currently reading five other books (and maybe two others…).

What was your favorite thing about the challenge?

I like to have reasons to list and keep track of things. It’s neat to look back at a chunk of time and see what progress has been made.

Book #12

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

I know nothing about baseball.

I grew up in Omaha, NE. While Nebraska is more strongly associated with football, it has baseball ties as well. It’s home of the College World Series and the city has a pretty strong softball culture. Yet, as with all sports, I had no exposure to baseball while growing up. Sport wasn’t valued in my family and was avoided as much as possible. I’ve come to see the error of that attitude, but I still don’t have the patience for baseball. So, what’s the deal with reading Moneyball?

I first came across Michael Lewis’s Moneyball while looking through a list of books that friends had read or wanted to read via a Facebook application. This was before I had heard of Lewis’s The Blind Side. The intersection between economics and sports sounded intriguing to me despite my general lack of interest in baseball as a sport. On a dramatic level, I do like baseball stories. Cut out 4/5th of  the playing and baseball becomes more about the sport and less about waiting for the sport.

The book proposes the question: how does a baseball team with a very small budget (the Oakland As) compete against teams that can afford stars? To avoid sounding dumb, I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of Lewis’s findings. The most interesting aspect of the narrative to me is the uphill battle with common wisdom that was waged by Billy Beane and the proponents of sabermetrics. Baseball insiders with their traditional wisdom valued all the things that “rich” teams could afford. No one had thought to question traditional wisdom. Do those valued things win games? Bill James and other sabermeticians were asking those questions,  seemingly into the wind, until Beane was forced by lack of money to put the system to the test. The lesson here is that common wisdom needs to be tested when it can be.

I enjoyed the book. Lewis has a knack for finding personalities and stories while presenting information in an understandable manner. He is, in fact, good enough at this that his non-fiction, non-overly-dramatic books are made into movies. I am amused this morning to find the trailer for the movie version of Moneyball has been released.  (Funny thing: I still don’t remember if I’ve seen the movie version of The Blind Side. I think I may have, but I am maybe just imagining it.)