Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay



First Sentence:  "The afternoon was so cold, so relentlessly gray, few pedestrians passed the long island of trees dividing Commonwealth Avenue, and even little dogs, shunted along impatiently, wore thermal coats and offended expressions."

Daphne Kalotay's Russian Winter, a historical fiction novel, is one of those books that  sat in my stacks for a few years waiting for the time is right moment to read and appreciate. The story follows Nina Revskaya in a dual timeline.  In the present as an old woman, getting ready to auction off jewels from her past,  taking us back into her life as a rising ballerina star in the Bolshoi during the days of Stalin and the war in the Soviet Union.     Politics and oppression, rebellion and intrigue, life and death, play out in both the past and the present.  Kalotay took a dark subject and made it interesting, pulling me in and leaving much to think about at the end.

Birthstone Bookology - G A R N E T 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Salon: Ch ch ch changes!



Happy Sunday!  We had a very blustery week weather wise so this afternoon we'll be cleaning up the yard.  The inauguration is over and Trump is finally ensconced in the white house.  I am cautiously optimistic and open minded and looking forward to the future.  I'm willing to give him a chance, unlike a lot of folks out there who are afraid of change.  

The marches this weekend reminded me of the 70's ERA and feminist movement and all the bra burning and the them against us rhetoric.  I'm turned off by Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Madonna and other celebrities.  I'm turned off by the p**sy parade.  Let's take a word that doesn't belong in pubic and shout it from the rooftops. They are offensive, more so than Trump.  People forgave Bill Clinton for his white house indiscretions and his semantics on is.  All the things folks want to affect  - the double standard, lack of respect, racism - they are all guilty of. The I'm right, you are wrong attitudes.  Plus I have problems with groups who pay people to protest which de-legitimizes the effort in my eyes.  For the paid protesters, it's only a job, not a true conviction.  But hey, you could say Trump has already helped improve the economy by creating more jobs.  

We are a free nation, allowed to disagree. But respectfully.  I don't think they remember what happened when Jane Fonda protested the Vietnam war.  People have long memories and still won't watch any of her movies.  I'm pretty much the same way. I want to be entertained, not preached at.  Once I find out an author or a actor has an agenda, which creeps into all their stories and movies, I'm done. What I find discomforting is how socialism has taken over, infiltrating many groups, influencing the behavior of the younger generations, and sabotaging democracy. 

It takes more courage to act every single day, doing what you can to change your life, helping others, raising up and treating people with respect.  The more offensive people become, the more people cry and whine and complain, the less they will be respected or listened to.  You want other countries to believe we are a nation of whiners, that democracy is a bad thing, then keep it up.  


Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable
and free of conflict have not learned their history. ~Joan Wallach Scott











So change is a good thing.  I am making an effort to change my habits that have been affecting my writing.  I started reading K.M Weiland's Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning inspiration and within the first chapters, received a swift kick in the rear. I've gotten in the habit of reading emails and checking facebook while preparing and eating breakfast, which as everyone knows can lead to distraction of the internet.  I've also gotten in the habit of listening to ebooks in the car as well as when cleaning or cooking. Diving into a book, rather than writing.   I wasn't allowing my mind quiet time in which to think or daydream. I was creating too much white noise for my characters or story ideas to be heard.  

So, I unplugged last Tuesday which was quite refreshing and decided I'd hold myself to the same standard as I do James with no technology until 4:00 p.m. everyday. Except for the weekends, of course.  I stopped listening to audiobooks in the car and just let my mind wander as I drove.    I decided to do morning pages again ala Julia Cameron's Artist Way. Within a couple days, ideas started popping into my head.  I've been creating my own stumbling blocks and restricting my creativity.  I'd been sabotaging myself.  


When we are no longer able to change a situation, 
we are challenged to change ourselves.

 ~Viktor Frankl




Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Alexandria Link by Steve Berry

Alexandria Link 



First sentence:  "George Haddad's patience ended as he glared at the man bound to the chair."

From the first sentence, Alexandria Link is nonstop action.  Cotton Malone's son has been kidnapped and if Malone doesn't find the lost Library of Alexandria within 72 hours, Cody will be killed.  Mercenaries are out to destabilize three major religions - Jewish, Christian and Muslim. The Library of Alexandria contains the documents that show the old testament was mistranslated from the Hebrew and prove the covenant land did not lie in Palastine.  Interesting theory.  Berry's writing is better than Patterson, but not as great as James Rollins.  

Birthstone Bookology - G A R N E T 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Salon: What's on my nightstand




Happy Sunday! Our rain deluge has passed and once the morning fog burned away, we had a bright and glorious day Saturday.  I'm getting back into the swing of blogging and thanks to a timely mini quest from the Bloggiesta crew,  am taking the opportunity to spruce up the joint!   

Book wise, I've finally organized my reading plans, which are quite flexible, because I never quite know when the mood will strike to dive into a comfort read or challenge myself with something heavier.  Since it is a prime year, I decided to shoot for 107 books which encompasses the Birthstone Bookology reads as well as A to Z read by author and/or title.   Are you a monogamous reader or have multiple books going at once?  I used to read one book at a time, but no longer.  Half the time I'll start an ebook in the midst of reading a print book.  Then there's the bathroom book which right now is KonTiki by Thor Heyrdahl.  I'm working my way through my dusty shelves and my selections for Garnet are: 


  • Spartacus: the Gladiator - Ben Kane (completed)
  • Alexandria Link - Steve Berry  (completed)
  • Russian Winter - Daphne Kalotay (currently in progress)
  • Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami  (52 Books readalong)
  • 6th Extinction - James Rollins
  • The Translator - John Crowley 

I'm also working on reading more non fiction so my A by author book is Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams.  

I also have Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker and Cixin Lui's Three Body Problem on tap for the month. Yes, I'm being a bit ambitious so we'll see how far I get this month.  

Writing wise, I just downloaded Jennifer Blanchard's Align your Writing Habits to Success: From procrastinating writer to productive writer in 30 days  and K.M Weiland's Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration.   I've been procrastinating big time, reading instead of writing, so giving myself a swift kick in the butt and diving in again.  I'm also taking wibbly wobbly  timey whimey (thanks Dr. Who) words out of my vocabulary such as I hope too or will try and replacing them with I will and I am doing such and such.  Positive, optimistic, forward thinking!  Woot Woot!  

Blogging wise, my intent is to post one short book review as well as one general post a week.  

~Cheers to a great week~ 

Toodles!

   


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane

Ben Kane 


First sentence:  "When the village came into site, at the top of the distant hill, a surging joy filled him."

I don't read a lot of historical fiction so am very picky.  I'd never considered reading Spartacus's story.  However, after reading Kane's Forgotten Legion series, which are rich and detailed re-imaginings,  I decided to give it a try, though I knew it wouldn't be an easy read.  Kane does an excellent job making violent subjects of the past not only palatable but interesting.  Not an easy subject, nor for the faint hearted considering the violence of the times involving mass killings and rapes.  

Birthstone Bookology - G A R N E T 



Friday, January 6, 2017

Welcome to 2017: A prime new year



It's a bit dusty in here, so give me a moment to clean off the table, set the easy chairs upright and unpack the tea cups.  There, that's better.  Hello 2017!  I have high hopes for 2017 since it is a prime number.  I started blogging 10 years ago in 2007 which isn't prime, but a fine year all the same. When My Two Blessings began, I never stopped to consider how long I would continue or where it was going.  Sometimes in life, you just jump in with both feet and don't worry about where you are going. Much has happened over the years with a lot of ebbs and flows, talkative times along with long silences.  If you've been with me for most of the ride, I appreciate it.  

Once again I'm contemplating the one word thing to focus on for the year and all I hear in the background is me. Sounds a bit selfish and narcissistic in a way.  However....

Honesty is the best policy, right?  Then I'll be honest.  I've lost  my writing mojo.  Over the years, I got involved in Nanowrimo, fell in love with the joy of writing and have worked to learn as much as I can about the writing craft. The past couple years I've volunteered to help facilitate a private mfa certificate program and in the progress burned myself out while helping to  run courses, rather than working on my own writing.  My WIP's have been gathering dust in the drawer, my characters stopped talking to me and I basically quit writing.   I started regurgitating old essays to fill in holes for classes and for the blog and lost me in the process.  

So, I'm going to focus on me, however selfish it may sound and concentrate on writing again. Embrace my creative side, let it flow unhindered by classes or responsibilities and let life inspire me. 

I'm reminded of something I wrote a year or so ago and want to recover that passion



Why do I write aside from the fact that it’s a fantastic mind journey full of unpredictableness.  I write to open the door into my mind and have grand conversation with myself, with God, with my characters.  I  write to explore the who’s, what’s, where’s and why’s.     I write to free my mind of all the detritus that gathers throughout the day.    I write to understand that which I don’t understand. I write to heal the wounds of the soul.  I write to practice, I write to explore, I write to play. I write to create. I write for those Aha moments because I do so enjoy when my characters surprise me. Or when I even surprise myself with an epiphany about my life.  I write to let my soul sing. 

~cheers to a wonderful writing new year!