Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon: Follow-up

I participated in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This post is a collection of reviews I wrote about books completed during the readathon. These reviews were originally shared on Goodreads, which was one of my goals for the readathon, and are quite short.

Books finished:

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; net change: 121 pages)
  4. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; net change: 98 pages)
  5. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; net change: 76 pages)

Reviews:

1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This book was… interesting. I blazed through it in four days. As a memoir of grieving, it invoked memories of my own grieving process and connected with me emotionally, but the author and I have very different life experiences, and this was almost enough to pull me out of the experience. Didion moves in wealthy, well-connected television and literary circles, and while I’d love some day to be as published and celebrated and connected as she is, that experience is currently very remote to me.

When mentioning her famous friends, she cites the fact they are famous, which is very distancing, and feels a bit like name-dropping. Other reviewers here are quick to remind us that this is a hallmark of her style, this coolness and emotional distance, but I think the critique is still valid: for a memoir about grief, such distance seems a little bewildering. However, it is still well-written and emotionally stirring, even if my own grief memoir would (will) look nothing like it.

2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine

I blazed through a good chunk of this last year and then put it down for several months. The last 1/4 or so seemed to lag a bit — not sure precisely how it was different than the start, but my interest waned.

This book is absolutely only for Supernatural fans — it fills in a bit of backstory, as well as giving a greater sense of John, who we know comparatively little about. Written as a journal, it includes a mix of personal musings, notes about anniversaries and birthdays, and the kind of esoterica you’d expect to find in a hunter’s notebook. I gave it four stars because it lost me for a bit, but it’s still an interesting and enjoyable read.

3. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

This book was hard, but also amazing. The narrator’s unique voice obscures and reveals, and the revelations are perfectly timed and wondrous. Though the reader does not learn the precise nature of the narrator’s crime, it doesn’t truly matter, in the end. Masterfully crafted, and well-worth the read.

4. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman

The construction of this book is interesting, featuring a selection of Lowell’s poems, followed by a critical essay examining the Sapphic imagery of her work in the context of her relationship with Ada Russell, and ending with a sequence of poems that reimagine the courtship and relationship between Lowell and Russell.

Of this, I very much enjoyed the essay, and the context it gave allowed me to better appreciate Lowell’s poetry. By comparison, the poems at the end, the work of Mary Meriam, seem a bit childish. Lowell’s work involves lush description, vivid detail, and sly eroticism. Meriam’s work, particularly the sonnets that begin the sequence, is flat. The rhyming in the sonnets is a trifle unimaginative, and the diction is oddly inconsistent; overall, Meriam’s work is a bit of a let-down, when compared to the clever writing of Lillian Faderman’s essay and Lowell’s own vibrant poetry.

5. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and it was referenced in The Year of Magical Thinking, so I decided to finally dust it off and read it.

This book is very intense. The introduction by Lewis’s stepson gives further insight to the creation of the book, but even without this context, the reader is drawn in. Lewis’s grief is raw and near, and it makes even this dedicated apologist question everything he knows and feels. He grappled with feelings of guilt and sorrow and anger in personal journals following his wife’s death. Later, upon reading them again, he decided to publish them, in the hopes they might help others facing loss heal a little more.

Here, Lewis is not the eloquent and impassioned writer of Christian apologetics, but merely a man of deep faith struggling to get through the loss of the woman he loved. He looked unflinchingly at his own crisis of faith and then shared it with the world, an act of courage. He survived, got himself through one of the hardest times in any person’s life; this book might help anyone else do the same.

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon: Final Update

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I participated in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is my final update post.

Readathon update:

I miscalculated, out of exhaustion, and didn’t realize that I wouldn’t wake up until just before the readathon’s end. That means that these numbers are the same as the Day 9 update post. And now it’s done!

Thanks for following my updates and folks who encouraged me. It was good to “meet” the other readathon participants, and I’m following some of y’all. Take care until next time!

 

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (FINISHED; current page: 227 of 227; net change: 115 pages)
  2. Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (FINISHED; current page: 217 of 217; net change: 59 pages)
  3. The Jewish Study Bible by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Eds.) (Current page: 343 of 2181; net change: 9 pages) Note: not originally listed, not technically being read for the challenge, but the challenge dates encompass two weeks of parshot (readings), and so those will be included in my page count.
  4. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (FINISHED; current page: 233 of 233; net change: 121 pages)
  5. Lady of the Moon by Amy Lowell, Mary Meriam, and Lillian Faderman (FINISHED; current page: 98 of 98; net change: 98 pages)
  6. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (FINISHED; current page: 76 of 76; net change: 76 pages)
  7. Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction by Dominica Malcolm [Ed.] (Current page: 55 of 252; net change: 35 pages)
  8. Octavia’s Brood by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha [Eds.] (Current page: 152 of 296; net change: 152 pages)

Net change for all books read: 665 pages
Books finished: 5

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

Update: Writing from the Core, Ferguson…

As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated about Writing from the Core since Day 12. The last day I got serious writing done on it was Day 14, six days ago. This is because I had a paper due last Saturday and two more on Monday, and all of my spare thought and energy has been devoted to the ongoing struggle in Ferguson, MO.

I am talking with a local organiser who’s in touch with a national network of folks, and we’re in the process of organising a ride from Oregon to Ferguson with supplies and assistance for labour day weekend. I have started fundraising to that end, and have several donors on the line to donate supplies once we know exactly what folks on the ground need.

My intent is to bring needed supplies, and help out wherever possible. I’m honestly not sure how much writing I will be getting done between now and then, though I will keep writing for myself as much as I can.

I want to thank everyone for the support you offered on my Writing from the Core posts, and the personal support that has been given to me outside of this blog. If you are willing and able, please donate to our effort or your own community’s effort to support Ferguson. This situation has had far-reaching effects and implications, and we need to band together to get through.

Thank you.

Final July Read-a-Thon Update!

That was such a great time! I got more reading done than the June read-a-thon, too, which felt great. I sacrificed the second half of Day 22’s reading time to getting my Camp NaNoWriMo project completed and checking in at the Willamette Writer’s Conference, which I am volunteering at this weekend.

My final count, as of midnight on 31 July 2014, was:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 295 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: no update.
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 111 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: this is such a hard read, but I’m learning lots. I totally have to put it down mid-sentence to steel myself for the next topic, though…
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.
  • 136 pages of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Notes: finished the paper, but didn’t re-read the whole book.

Final page count: 1,252

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 22

It’s the last day! Wow…

I’m gonna try to get more reading in before midnight, but I also have to finish up my Camp NaNoWriMo piece as well—I’m only down about 800 words, so I’m not worried about that so much, but it cuts into my reading time.

Current count is:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 295 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: no update.
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 110 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: harrowing reading…
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.
  • 113 pages of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Notes: almost done with the paper, and about halfway through the book.

Running page count: 1,238

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 20

There’s only a couple of days left in the readathon! I have a couple of other projects starting on the 1st, but I rather enjoy keeping track of my reading like this…

Thus far, I have read:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 295 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: still reading.
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 100 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: no update.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.
  • 39 pages of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Notes: this is a re-read for a paper; I’m comparing this with “The Final Problem” for class.

Running page count: 1,144

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 18

Such a busy weekend! I’ve plenty of writing to get done today, but my reading is coming along quite well, also.

Currently I have read:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 231 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: and the re-read continues…
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 100 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: there’s such a wealth of information in this book. I’m fascinated by so much that I’m learning.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.

Running page count: 1,041

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 16

I’m getting a lot more reading done this Read-a-Thon. The June one was shorter, yes, but I also just have way more reading to do, and I have to prioritise it, because it’s for class!

Still loving my re-read of the Sherlock Holmes canon, and I’m really enjoying a lot of the reading for my non-fiction writing class–have read a couple of memoirs I would not have picked up on my own.

Number of pages I have read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 229 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: still reading!
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 52 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: I’m behind on this one—I ought to be at 100 pages—but I’m getting through. Still a difficult read.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.

Running page count: 991

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 14

So swamped! Just started my third class for the summer, so that’s another pile of reading on… Whew!

Page count to this point:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 145 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: just trucking along…
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished. I was uncomfortable with Bechdel’s use of pejoratives in describing her father’s sexuality, but aside from that, this was a brilliant work—I blasted through it in one day, because I didn’t want to stop reading.
  • 38 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: this is a hard read, emotionally, but it’s been on my list for a while, and I’m gonna be reading it for a class on scientific racism.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.

Running page count: 893

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 12

I’m struggling to get caught up on writing while balancing reading and getting school work done. I loved the writer’s meet-up on Saturday, though it meant that I didn’t actually get any writing done…

Pages read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 135 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: just trucking along…
  • 84 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: wow! This is amazing. The use of a graphic novel format is an interesting one, giving a curious distance and an intimate closeness simultaneously. This is such an excellent read so far, and I am already thinking of who I want to hand it off to once I’m done.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: I got the chance to read my amazingly talented friend’s manuscript and offer feedback. It’s going through revisions now, and then it’ll go off to the editor, and hopefully get published soon. I feel privileged to be trusted with alpha reader status for my friend, who is a stunningly good writer!

Running page count: 697

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 10

I was far more exhausted than I expected to be! Lots of sleeping and relaxing, and now I’m getting caught up on my writing for Camp NaNo.

Pages read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 108 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: the stories are quite short—shorter than I remember them being! It’s very episodic, and the ends tend to wrap things up fairly neatly, often with punchy quotes and situations that echo earlier parts of the story or past stories. Still really enjoying it, and seeing where recent adaptations have been faithful or have departed.

I’m headed to a writer meet-up now, which means transit reading. I’m excited to start on reading for the next week, which includes more Sherlock Holmes, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for my creative non-fiction class, and Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington for my Scientific Racism course.

Running page count: 486

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 8

Wow—what a trip! I spent all day yesterday at the Make Progress National Summit (I’m planning write-ups about the panels I attended), and then visited the White House today for a group meeting with the associate director of public engagement. The meeting was about priority issues that millennials are interested in, and he kindly took questions from us all for an hour.

Now, I’m at the airport, waiting for my flight back home. I’m excited for all the plane reading I’ll get to do, and to be back home and get some writing done. I didn’t get much  reading or writing done while here, sad to say, but I had a great experience nonetheless.

Pages read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: now finished. Didn’t get it done by Sunday night, because I had school work to do and packing to finish and writing to get through. Still, it’s done now, and quite as good as I remember it being.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: aaaannd finished. There’s definitely some racism indicative of the time, and I made awkward faces a couple times, but still a good read. And the end references the beginning in an amusing way.
  • 21 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: it’s interesting to observe what pieces of the original stories were preserved in the recent BBC adaptation, and what parts were cut for time and modernity’s sake. Also, obviously, to have an overarching villain, they’ve shuffled things around and expanded the role of Moriarty in the show. I rather prefer the books/stories in this respect, though I have always preferred faithfulness in adaptation to a large degree—which is why, I suppose, I’m not a screenwriter. (An exception can be made for re-imaginings, in my view, but not change for change’s sake alone, which is what I sometimes feel Like Moffat has done. But he’s show-runner, not I, so…)

Boarding begins soon, and then I’ll have a long stretch of sitting before me. Have a good day, all!

Running page count: 399

Camp NaNoWriMo Stats: Midway

Well, that’s the halfway point. Here’s a screen cap of my stats on the Camp site, as of midnight of the 15th:

Not too shabby, huh? My cabin is oddly silent (hit me up if you have an active cabin open for one more member!), but I’m plugging along. I’m in Washington DC until tomorrow night, so I’m not sure how much writing I’m going to get done, but I purposefully have been keeping ahead of my goal, just in case something like this happened, so I’m not going to worry too much about it.

Also, Washington DC! This is the best. I love it here. (Even if it’s really awfully humid…)

Pictures are going up on Instagram, if you’d like to see what I’m up to.

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 6

Y’all, I am in Washington DC. This is amazing!

I came last July, but didn’t have any time to myself for sight-seeing—the best I managed was a selfie in front of the White House at 8 in the morning. Today, I totally have the chance to sight-see, and I’m gonna do it.

That said, here’s my page count up to now:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: now finished. Didn’t get it done by Sunday night, because I had schoolwork to do and packing to finish and writing to get through. Still, it’s done now, and quite as good as I remember it being.
  • 85 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: more than halfway through this one. Anticipate it will be done by tonight. Cooling off in a Starbucks now, so I’ll probably read some before braving the humidity again.

I’m trying not to get heat-stroke or dehydrate here—it’s seriously bad compared to Portland. Also, DC is not the most pedestrian-friendly place I’ve ever been…

Still, I have been to the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, and I’m headed to the Library of Congress (because of course I am). Still have an essay to finish but I’ve got some time before I can even check in to my hotel, so I’m enjoying being in DC!

Running page count: 322

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 4

Doing a read-a-thon and NaNoWriMo session at the same time is a lot of time spent reading and writing!

Checked off my list: over 4,000 words towards my 40,000 word Camp NaNo goal—including 1,000 words of poetry, 1,000 words on a photo essay about my family’s military history for my creative non-fiction class, and work on my memoir—and about a quarter of the reading I need done by Tuesday.

I’ve been making an effort to stay at least one day ahead on my NaNo writing, but I want to get 2-3 days ahead before I leave for Washington DC on Monday night, since I won’t have guaranteed internet access again until Thursday evening, when I get back.

Page count so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: This one is fascinating. Horowitz is both informative and informal in tone, dropping in tidbits of the wealth of information her companions shared on their walks, and inspiring me to be more mindful of the world around me. I highly recommend this book! I think I may finish it on the plane to DC!
  • 26 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: The first of the Sherlock Holmes reading! I’m very excited, and remembering how very much I love these stories. I want to finish this one today (I’m ambitious that way) and move on to the next reading for tomorrow.

Coming up: the rest of A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, and four stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Hopefully, I’ll also get to 22,837 words on my manuscript, which will mean it won’t matter if I don’t write in DC.

Running page count: 113