My dad has a 1-pound coffee can full of wheat pennies, and after spending too much of the weekend meticulously going through them to see if we might get lucky, I can confirm that he and I are still not independently wealthy. Oh well.
I've also been reading, and not all those words are ponyfics! Click down below the break to see what I'm in the middle of just now.
A Storm of Swords (A Song of Fire and Ice vol. 3), by George RR Martin
What it is: The third book from that "Game of Thrones" thing that everyone seems to be talking about.
How I'm liking it so far: First things first: I'm officially far enough that I can stop covering my ears and whistling Hail to the Chief every time I hear the words "Red" and "Wedding" spoken in the same sentence. I'll avoid spoilers for anyone who's behind me, so all I'll say on the matter is: good riddance.
In unrelated news: There's not enough Tyrion in this book, Jamie Lannister's a much more interesting character than I suspected (so far), Bran's a much less interesting character than I suspected (again, so far), and I never ever ever want to read Mr. Martin's descriptions of sex again. Seriously. I'm not asking for erotica (in many cases, depicting the sexual interactions between various characters would be even more disturbing if it was "erotic"), but the author has an incredible talent for making any sort of "romantic" contact between people sound vaguely nauseating. That isn't just me, is it? Because I'm skimming over everything sexual at this point--it's the only way I'm going to be able to finish this book.
Recommendation: That notwithstanding, I'm still enjoying most everything else about the book, and plan to keep going in the series. Start with A Game of Thrones if you want to get into this series, obviously--this is definitely not one you want to dive into the middle of.
Space Between Words: the Origins of Silent Reading, by Paul Saenger
What it is: The author's contention (a contested but not radical one) is that, up until the middle ages, reading in the west was done entirely out loud--whether in the form of public oratory, or mumbling quietly to oneself as one read alone.
How I'm liking it so far: The premise here is that scriptura continua--writing with no spaces between words--implies a lack of silent reading, and the author brings to bear an impressive array of historical accounts, cultural cross-comparisons, and scientific studies on how people process language to support his case. It's also as dry as the desert in December (that analogy may break down, depending on when your desert's dry season is). I made it through the first two chapters, but I think I'm going to skim the rest; I'm interested in the subject matter, but the presentation is unapologetically, relentlessly academic.
Recommendation: This is definitely not something for casual reading; it's not terribly accessible to the "average reader." Still, if you've got the education, mental fortitude, and/or patience to tackle the stolid, solid case which Saenger makes, it's a fascinating topic.
The Foie Gras Wars, by Mark Caro
What it is: An account of how one Chicago chef's decision to strike the foie gras from his menu opened a new front in the omnipresent culture war, and the strange bedfellows it brought together.
How I'm liking it so far: First, a primer: foie gras is the liver a goose or duck which has been force-fed massive amounts for a few weeks before being slaughtered, enlarging the liver and giving it a distinctively succulent, buttery flavor and texture (if you've never had any, trust me; it's delicious). Along with things like veal, foie gras is a dish that many people comfortable with eating meat in principal feel is unethical to consume.
The basic question at the heart of this book is whether the treatment of the fowl used to make this delicacy is cruel, which necessarily spirals into asking whether it's cruel compared to how we treat other animals, and by what yardstick one measures animal cruelty... there are some broad issues at play here. And, where Space Between Words is unabashedly academic in tone, Caro (a writer for The Chicago Tribune) aims for a much broader audience. I found the book engaging and evenhanded, examining the issue of food while giving time to everyone from PETA protesters to foie gras factory farmers.
Recommendation: Anyone interested in culinary ethics will find this to be an entertaining yet informative read.
Fatal Revenant (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant vol. 2), by Steven R. Donaldson
What it is: The second of four books in the third and final series of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant sees Linden Avery traveling back 10,000 years into The Land's past (to before the first book was set, for those of you keeping track) to recover a long-lost artifact.
How I'm liking it so far: It's been a while since I mentioned Covenant, but I'm still getting ready for the October release of the final book in the quadrilogy which Donaldson says will be the last he shares about The Land, its inhabitants, its larger world, and about Covenant and Avery themselves. I've still got a bit more to re-read from this book, and then one more door-stopper to go, to refresh myself when it finally comes!
Okay, so I like it. There's not a lot to say without spoiling too much, so let me just say that this is my favorite book of the quadrilogy so far, and is one of the best examples I've ever seen of a reveal that you simultaneously see coming a mile away, and yet which keeps you guessing until the very end.
Recommendation: I do and will continue to recommend The Chronicles to anyone who can make it past chapter seven Lord Foul's Bane without throwing their hands up in the air and saying "That's it; I'm done."