Friday framble!


Yes, it's a Friday framble.   It was going to be Work In Progress Wednesday, then Wednesday turned to Thursday thunk it, but before I knew it - here we are. Friday.    Last Wednesday, if you'll recall was Ash Wednesday.   I made a few Lenten promises to myself to do several things, including writing a 1000 words a day on Eyes in the Ashes.  I'm holding myself accountable so here's the good, bad and the fugly.   

Last Thursday, the day after Ash Wednesday,  woke up with a sore throat which then turned into a full bore, nose clogged, mushy brained and hacking my head off cold which left me sounding like Lauren Bacall.   Hubby thinks I sound sexy.   So, instead of continuing the story because my brain and the story was just not connecting,  I started rereading it and editing.  Yep, I know. Some folks say not to edit til you gotten the first draft finished, other's edit as they go along.  Still haven't figured out which is the better process for me yet.    

I love the story, but it needs work of course.   I cleaned up the messy bits which I have to attribute to nanowrimo and needed to be eliminated.  In the process, I cut about 1400 words and discovered some continuity problems.  I've been working on an outline of what I have so far, plus writing up a list of my characters.  Time to fill out some more character sheets  - too bad our printer doesn't work since we upgraded our internet and went totally wireless.  Any suggestions for a wireless printer, ya'll.  I digress.

Finally provided minor characters who were nameless with names (wasn't that nice of me) and making notes on who needs to be given a life (He's alive!) versus who is just a sub sub character and is just making a minor appearance.  Though a couple of characters I thought should be minor are waving their hands at me vigorously for attention.   I am still trying to figure out who the head honcho villian in charge of the smuggling ring is that has surfaced.   I already turned one character, who we thought was a good guy, into a bad guy.  Well,  he actually surprised me while writing and said I want to go in that direction so I let him.  The sneak!   It's one of those rubbing your hands with glee moments as you say "ahah."  

So, brainstorming and will be adding in a few scenes to help the story along and hopefully by the time I get those done, then will be ready to finish writing the rest of the story.  For some reason, I was blocked and just couldn't get back into finishing the story.  Now I know why after reviewing the story.    Sometimes colds are a blessings.  Sometimes they are just a pain in the.....

Booking Through Thursday: Why you Read


Booking Through Thursdays has a very interesting topic today: 
I've seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?

Well, nosy me just can't accept a quote without looking it up. I found the text of Birket's "The Gutenberg Elegies and read it.   I don't agree with the above statement after reading through entire thing.    I couldn't actually find the above quote, so perhaps someone can point me to it in the text.  

He posits what will happen if we eventually move to an all electronic medium.

1) Language erosion.   I see the erosion of our language everyday in emails and text messages passing over into common language.   When someone looks at me at say "O. M. G." or "L.O.L." in response to something I said or when I receive an email full of misspellings and bad grammar or short speak.

"Simple linguistic prefab is now the norm, while ambiguity, paradox, irony, subtlety, and wit are fast disappearing."

2) Flattening of historical perspective:  Books are disappearing from the libraries because certain parties didn't like the way they were presented.  We see instances in which history is being rewritten and to suit the electronic age, feed to us in small bites.   Rumors and gossip turn into truth.

"Once the materials of the past are unhoused from their pages, they will surely mean differently. The printed page is itself a link, at least along the imaginative continuum, and when that link is broken, the past can only start to recede. At the same time it will become a body of disjunct data available for retrieval and, in the hands of our canny dream merchants, a mythology."

3) The waning of the private self:   The nuclear family being replaced by virtual families and connections.  Communication between family members turns to texting one another at the dinner table versing conversing.   Watch two teenagers walking down the street.  Are they talking to one another.  No, they are on their cell phones talking to someone else or on the internet.  Watch the woman bike riding with her children.  Is she talking to them and giving them her full attention.  Nope, on the phone talking or browsing the internet.

"The doors and walls of our habitations matter less and less–the world sweeps through the wires as it needs to, or as we need it to. The monitor light is always blinking; we are always potentially on-line."

So what does any of this have to do with books?  The physical act of reading is active and engages our brains.  

"The order of print is linear, and is bound to logic by the imperatives of syntax. Syntax is the substructure of discourse, a mapping of the ways that the mind makes sense through language. Print communication requires the active engagement of the reader's attention, for reading is fundamentally an act of translation. Symbols are turned into their verbal referents and these are in turn interpreted. The print engagement is essentially private. While it does represent an act of communication, the contents pass from the privacy of the sender to the privacy of the receiver. Print also posits a time axis; the turning of pages, not to mention the vertical descent down the page, is a forward-moving succession, with earlier contents at every point serving as a ground for what follows. Moreover, the printed material is static–it is the reader, not the book, that moves forward. The physical arrangements of print are in accord with our traditional sense of history. Materials are layered; they lend themselves to rereading and to sustained attention. The pace of reading is variable, with progress determined by the reader's focus and comprehension"
Electronic media is passive - we are receiving, but not engaging. 

"The electronic order is in most ways opposite. Information and contents do not simply move from one private space to another, but they travel along a network. Engagement is intrinsically public, taking place within a circuit of larger connectedness. The vast resources of the network are always there, potential, even if they do not impinge on the immediate communication. Electronic communication can be passive, as with television watching, or interactive, as with computers. Contents, unless they are printed out (at which point they become part of the static order of print) are felt to be evanescent. They can be changed or deleted with the stroke of a key. With visual media (television, projected graphs, highlighted "bullets") impression and image take precedence over logic and concept, and detail and linear sequentiality are sacrificed. The pace is rapid, driven by jump-cut increments, and the basic movement is laterally associative rather than vertically cumulative. The presentation structures the reception and, in time, the expectation about how information is organized.

Further, the visual and nonvisual technology in every way encourages in the user a heightened and ever-changing awareness of the present. It works against historical perception, which must depend on the inimical notions of logic and sequential succession. If the print medium exalts the word, fixing it into permanence, the electronic counterpart reduces it to a signal, a means to an end" 

The experience of reading a physical book versus reading one electronically is totally different, I can testify to that.  I've never been able to really "read" a book on the internet.   While reading a story on the internet, I find myself reading faster, speeding through the text, scrolling to the end and not retaining what I read.   Not an enjoyable experience, plus you really can't cozy up with a laptop computer.    I have discovered the same thing since buying my Nook.   I've read a couple very interesting stories, but did I retain the story in my mind.  No. I discovered that I did not retain as much information about the story as I did when read a physical book.  I felt the need to read the actual book because I didn't enjoy the experience. I didn't get into the story.    Flat words on a screen just didn't engage my brain.  Yes, I could cozy up on the couch with the Nook and it has it's benefits however it is still a passive reading experience.  

Another reason why I enjoy the act of reading - Audio books:

"Reading, because we control it, is adaptable to our needs and rhythms. We are free to indulge our subjective associative impulse; the term I coin for this is deep reading: the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don't just read the words, we dream our lives in their vicinity. The printed page becomes a kind of wrought-iron fence we crawl through, returning, once we have wandered, to the very place we started. Deep listening to words is rarely an option. Our ear, and with it our whole imaginative apparatus, marches in lockstep to the speaker's baton.

When we read with our eyes, we hear the words in the theater of our auditory inwardness. The voice we conjure up is our own–it is the sound-print of the self. Bringing this voice to life via the book is one of the subtler aspects of the reading magic, but hearing a book in the voice of another amounts to a silencing of that self–it is an act of vocal tyranny. The listener is powerless against the taped voice, not at all in the position of my five-year-old daughter, who admonishes me continually, "Don't read it like that, Dad." With the audio book, everything–pace, timbre, inflection–is determined for the captive listener. The collaborative component is gone; one simply receives."

Some enjoy audio books and don't have any problem with them.   I can't listen to an audio book because I end up tuning it out.   My brain isn't actively engaged and my eyes are not focused on a page of words and  both start to wander.   But that is me - I'm a visual learner.

As to the above quote - reading is not feeding an insufficiency in one's life.  Reading entertains, enlightens, educates, expands your horizons, opens up your life to worlds you never could imagine.   To me reading is as necessary as breathing.

What do you think?

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley


The Mists of Avalon


Marion Zimmer Bradley

"Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne.

There is the darkly bewitching Morgaine, half sister to Arthur and a high priestess in the enchanted land of Avalon, where women rule as the creators of life and keepers of knowledge. For Morgaine, there is but one quest: to wrest Britain away from Christianity--the new religion which views women as the carriers of original sin--and to return it to the worship of the Mother Goddess.

The fair and lovely Queen Gwenhyfar is torn between her duty to her king and the new God, and her passion for the dashing Lancelot. Both women struggle and suffer, and both--in their own extraordinary ways--triumph."

I read "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley as part of the Heather's Take a Dare challenge.   Written back in 1982 is a retelling of tale of King Arthur from the view of three women:  His mother Ingraine, his sister Morgaine and his wife Gwynhefar.  It is a chunkster at 876 pages and well worth reading.   It is chock full  of action, deceit, cunning, romance, plotting, bravery, magic, political and religious conflict, pagan rituals and a interesting menage a trois.

We have Ingraine, who is married to Gorlois, mother of Morgaine and sister to Morgause and Viviane, the Lady of the lady, the high priestess of Avalon. Her father is Taliesin, Merlin of Britain and the archdruid. Both Merlin and Viviane foretell Viviane will betray her husband, marry another and give birth to Arthur, the future King.

According to Viviane, Morgaine is destined to take over as Lady of the Lake, when she eventually passes on. Morgaine goes to Avalon for training to become a high priestess and there she meets Lancelet, (one of Viviane's son who later becomes Arthur's first knight) and falls in love with him despite the fact she has dedicated her life to the Mother Goddess. At one point, she and Lancelet, while visiting and roaming in the mists of Avalon and the crossing between the two worlds, they happen upon Gwenhyfar who is lost. Lancelet becomes smitten with Gwynhefar but lacks the courage to tell her so.  So we have Morgaine who is in love with Lancelet who is in love with Gwynhefar who at this point doesn't have a clue.

While in Avalon one of the Priestess, Raven,prophecizes that during Beltane, Morgaine is to perform a fertility ritual- she as the Virgin Huntress and give herself to young man as the Horned One, the King Stag. What Viviane doesn't tell Morgaine, is that the child conceived during Beltane will go on to be Arthur's sole heir and future king. When they wake up in the morning in a darkened cave, they make love again before the young man recognizes her voice.  The young man is her half-brother Arthur. Morgaine gives Mordred to her aunt Morgause to raise.

Then we have Gwynhefar, daughter of King Leodegranz, who is given in marriage to Arthur, but she doesn't love Arthur, she is in love with Lancelet. However, she is a good christian, God fearing, obedient girl and does her best to be a dutiful wife to Arthur. Unfortunately, she is unable to produce a heir for Arthur. Arthur refuses to leave his wife or take any consorts. Gwynhefar becomes increasing fanatical about her Christianity, pitting her against Morgaine, whom Arthur has invited to his court to be one of Gwynhefar's lady in waiting. Arthur is aware of Gwynhefar's and Lancelet's love for each other and one night, when they've all had a little bit too much to drink, invites Lancelet into their bedroom.   Turns out Lancelet is not only in love with Gwynhefar, but he is in love with Arthur as well.

Throw in the war with the Saxons, the search for the Holy Grail, and the fight with the church, christian beliefs vs the Mother Goddess and you have one heck of a story.  The Mist of Avalon is a very interesting retelling of the Arthurian Legend and well worth the read. There are two more books to the series, prequels "The Forest House" and "Lady of Avalon" which I am looking forward to reading.

Pages: 876
Publisher: Random house (del rey-ballantine)
Edition: 1982
Genre: Fantasy

What's On Your Nightstand - February


It's the last Tuesday of the month which means it is time for What's On Your Nightstand hosted by 5 minutes for Books.   My TBR pile overfloweth and I have instituted a buying ban until I've whittled the pile down a bit.   Do you want to see my whole list - then look here.  I finally decided to organize it by genre, instead of just one long list.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for sci fi, other times mystery or occasionally a non fiction read.  So I split up the list and we'll see how long that works.  I've been picking books out by using because they all look so good and I just can't make up my mind.  I even put their nifty widget in my sidebar.

What's on my reading plate for this month?  I just started The Bible of Clay by Julia Navarro which is a biblical historical and archaeological thriller wrapped up in one.  A famous archeologist's grand daughter is searching for cuneiform tables which are said to have the first book of Genesis written on them by a young scribe in the time of Abraham.  The problem, they are somewhere in Iraq and it's just days away from the start of the Iraq invasion.   

Monday, March 1st is the start of my Nobel Literature class and the first book we will be reading and analyzing is "Nausea" by Jean Paul Sartre.  This will be an interesting experience dipping into Sartre's existentialistic writings.  

My classic read for the month will be an old historical fiction novel that's be on our shelves for a while:  Stargazer: A Novel of the Life of Galileo by Zsolt De Haranyi.

During Lent I am reading Pope Benedict's The Apostles.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jesus of Nazareth which was very enlightening and educational, so looking forward to what he has to say about the apostles.

For my Mind Voyages science fiction challenge, I will be reading two more Hugo winners: "To Your Scattered Bodies Go" by Philip Jose Farmer (1972 Hugo) and "Fahrenheit 451" (1954 Hugo) by Ray Bradbury.

And since I love mysteries and thrillers, I'll be rounding out my reading month with Lethal Harvest (a medical thriller) by William Cutrer,  Untraceable by Laura Griffin, author of the Borderline Series which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Also J.T. Ellison's Judas Kiss and her newest psychological thriller  The Cold Room.  It's supposed to be scary, creepy, chilling good.

What's on your reading plate for this month?

*Ftc notice - all links are for informational purposes only and not associated with Amazon affiliates. 

Note:  I recently tried intense debate for comments. Has a bug I can't figure out and deleted it which means I lost everyone's comments. Smart me however, copied them and rather than asking everyone to comment again, added them back in.  That's why the comments are all anonymous.  Thank you for your patience. Mine is shot!

Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini

One Couple's Story of 

Love, Food and Healing 

in Italy

Paula Butturini

Back cover: "Paula Butturini and John Tagliabue met as foreign correspondents in Italy, fell in love, and four years later, married in Rome.  But not even a month after the wedding, tragedy struck.  They had transferred away from their Italian paradise when John was shot and nearly killed on the job.  The period of physical and mental suffering that followed marked the abrupt end of what they'd known together and the beginning of a phase of life neither had planned for.

They followed their instincts and returned to the place they loved, Italy, and there they found a lifeline of sorts. As John struggled to regain his health and Paula reexamined her assumptions about illness and recovery, it was food and its rituals--the daily shopping, preparing, sharing and memory of food--that kept them moving forward.  Food became a symbol of the family's innate desire to survive, to accept, and to celebrate what fell its way.

Keeping the Feast is an inspiring story of what happens when tragedy strikes a previously happy marriage and a couple must fight to find its bearings.  It is a testament to the extraordinary sustaining powers of food and love, to the healing that can come from the simple rituals of life, even during life's biggest challenges and to the stubborn belief that there is always an afterward, always hope."

"Keeping the Feast" is Paula Butturini's memoir of what happened during her marriage when John was shot while on assignment and reflections on life past.   I don't ordinarily read memoir's but when Lisa of Books on the Brain decided to read the book for her Winter Reading Series, I was intrigued and decided to join in. The publisher, Riverhead books, thoughtfully provided those joining in with a copy of the book and it was released February 18, 2010.

In 1985 Paula and John met and three years later in 1989 decided to marry.  The fall of the Berlin wall would affect their lives substantially.  Two weeks before their wedding, Paula was covering a protest march against the communist leaders in Prague - the Velvet revolution.  The Czechoslovak police started beating up the peaceful protesters and despite the fact Paula was just there to report it, they savagely beat her as well.   Five weeks later, two weeks after they had gotten married, John was shot while covering a story in Romania.  He had a long and hard recovery and was deeply depressed for a long time. I think she was as well but handled it in a different way.   "Keeping the Feast" is Paula's account of how she was able to keep their lives together and how food played a substantial role.  

Their story is at times difficult to read, yet shows a strength of character.   I think a big part of their healing came from living in Italy itself.  Paula found healing and solace  in the daily routine of walking to the outdoor market in the piazza to pick out their food for the day, preparing and cooking their meals.  Interspersed throughout the book, she shared stories about growing up,  her parents, her mother's fight with depression and most of all, memories of family meals.  Christmas and other holidays centered about the food, not the event. 

Food never played a big part in my life. I'm one of those who eat to live rather than live to eat. When we travel, it isn't the restaurants or the food we remember, it's the places.   But I imagine if we lived in Italy - the slow pace, the fresh food in the square offered by the farmers, fresh baked bread, the pasta, the wine would change all that.   Paula's descriptions of the farmer's market, the food, the meals they prepared had my mouth watering at times.   So much so, I baked some very fattening chocolate chip cookies in the process of reading the book.   And even now, thinking about it, makes me want to prepare some fresh pizza dough and have a homemade pizza tonight.     Even though I prefer reading science fiction or an action packed thriller, I have to say Reading the Feast is a emotionally packed look into Paula's life and I highly recommend it.   We could all learn something from it. 

Would you like to meet the author virtually and find out more about the book or discuss the book?  Paula will be visiting Lisa's blog on Monday February 22 at 5:00 P.M. PST.   Come join in on the discussion.

Thank you to Lisa for hosting the Winter Reading Series, Riverhead Books for providing me with a courtesy copy of the book and Paula for sharing her story.  

Other thoughts about the story:

"Butturini’s love of food and her mouth watering descriptions of it will delight those readers who consider themselves “foodies.” It is Butturini’s ability to unite all three of these subjects into a cohesive, compelling story that will have readers praising this book."

S. Krishna's Books:
"From Butturini’s discussion of the local markets she visits in Rome to her descriptions of pasta, polenta, and more, this book made me woozy with hunger."

Dar at Peeking between the Pages:
"Beauty in words! I loved Paula's writing and her ability to draw me into this story, to make me feel so many emotions. While a great part of this book may seem like it's sad, it actually isn't. Paula has written this book in such a way that it offers encouragement and hope - she opens her heart to all reading and that makes it a very powerful novel indeed."

*FTC note:  This review is my unbiased opinion and no compensation was received in the writing of this review.

Art History --- A!!!!!

Laocoon and his Sons

I got an A in my Art History class!   Lordy, it was more tough and rough than I expected for a lower division class.  However, I learned so many interesting things and have a much better appreciation for ancient art and architecture.   I am done with my lower division courses and have 3 upper division courses left.    My next class, which starts March 1st, is going to be quite interesting - Nobel Literature.  The course will involve discussing the history and of course, controversy surrounding the Nobel Prize.  Plus reading and analyzing 4 books which under ordinary circumstances probably would never even consider reading.  When I looked up what books were required for the class, I was hooked.  I received them yesterday and all look very interesting.  

French Existentialism

German literature

Literary Fiction - mythical latin american town

Japanese Literature

Who is Hugo Gernsback?

Who is Hugo Gernsback and why are the Hugo Awards named after him?  

Good question since I had never heard of Gernsback until I decided to read the Hugo Award winners and host the Mind Voyages science Fiction and Fantasy reading challenge.

Hugo Gernsbacher, born August 16, 1884 in Luxembourg immigrated to the United States in 1904 to New York.  Hugo was fascinated by electricity and invented a dry battery which he patented upon arriving in the United States.   He established a radio and electrical supply house called Electro Importing Company and developed a small portable radio transmitter called the Telimco Wireless Telegraph.    He was very creative and went on to patent 80 inventions. 


Long story short, Gernsback  published a magazine for electrical experimenters called Modern Electronics which was later taken over by Popular Science.   To fill up some empty space in the magazine, he decided to write a futuristic story which ran in 12 installments.

That story was later published in 1926 as a novel called "Ralph 124C 41+"  which was set in the 27th century and is still available today.  He started a number of magazines including the first magazine dedicated exclusively to science fiction called  "Amazing Stories." the magazine of scientifiction in 1926.

First Issue April 1926

Hugo coined the term scientifiction which later went on to be known as Science Fiction.  Thanks to the beauty of the internet I found an original pdf of an article of Gernback's called Plausibility in Scientifiction on Mumpsimus (thank you, Matthew)


Gernsback unfortunately went bankrupt and lost control of Amazing Stories. He quickly bounced back and went on to publish three more magazines:  Air Wonder Stories, Science Wonder Stories and Science Wonder Quarterly.

Air Wonder and Science Wonder were merged into one magazine Wonder stories in 1930 and sold it in 1936 to Beacon Publications where it continued to be published for 20 more years.  He published over 50 magazines including Radio Craft, The Experimenter, Electrical Experimenter, Sexology, Science and Mechanics, Science and Inventions, High Sea Adventures, Your Body, Gadgets,  Aviation Mechanics, Short Wave and Television to name a few.

Gernsback is lauded as the father of science fiction.  The first annual Science Fiction Achievement awards was awarded back in 1953 with retro awards handed out for the years 1946 in 1996, retro award 1951 given in 2001 and 1954 retro award presented in 2006.  The award were unofficially called the "Hugo's" until the name was officially changed and used beginning in 1993.    In 1960 he was given a special Hugo Award as "The Father of Magazine Science Fiction."  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 and Hugo Gernsback was one of the first inductees along with Jack Campbell (1908-2006), A.E. van Vogt's (1912-2000) and John W. Campbell Jr. (1910-1971)

Hugo Gernsback died in New York on August 19, 1967 at the age 83.    

If you want to know more about Hugo Gernsback, his electronic accomplishments, all about his magazines and his life, you find everything you want to know here and  here.

Lesson Learned?


James decided he wanted the Nintendo DS game "Mario and Luigi Partners in Time" which was released in 2005.   We went online and it wasn't available new online from Amazon or other stores, nor was it available in the box stores.  Game stop said they had a used one and we drove over to the store, but low and behold - no they didn't.  At that point, I was done. But James, being very persistent, talked to Father who said "I'll find it for you son."  

I came home from work the other day to find the two of them online at Amazon checking out the used sellers.   Now I've got nothing against the used sellers on Amazon but when it comes to buying used, I will only buy from 1) someone I know or 2) a legitimate box store such as Game Stop.   We get a lot of customers who buy used equipment which was advertised as in perfect working order and end up bringing it to our shop for repair. Thank you - Ebay.  

However, they had made up their minds and purchased the game.  The game arrived in the mail and James excitedly tore open the package and disappeared into his room.  A couple minutes later, I hear "Hey, what's wrong with this, it's going blank."   I go in and he shows me the screen - dark, nothing happening.   I turned off the DS, take out the cartridge, examine it for dust, etc., pop it back on and try it again.  It goes through the opening sequence, then goes blank.   We try it a few more times with James saying

"Patience, mom... Wait, it'll come up."  The eternal optimist.

"Sorry, hon...look like you got a defective game."   When Father comes home, he examines it under the magnifying glass and then he tries it.   Still no go. 

Father calls me at work the next day.  He had called Nintendo and lo and behold, according to the code on the front of the disk, IT'S A FRAUD.   It's not used, which Nintendo doesn't have a problem with, it's a bootlegged game someone made.    And guess what, Nintendo DS has some sort of fail safe in it that prevents these games from being played.

I emailed the seller, without mentioning the fact the game is bootlegged, just defective and won't work and and he/she said they would refund our money.   If you want to know who they are, email me.  I won't out them here on the blog unless we don't get our money back.

After all this, I explained, quite adamantly, to James and Father that if a game is not available new, then it is not available.... Period, end of story, end of discussion, drop it, let it go, I don't want to hear about it again.

Lesson learned?  

WIP Wednesday: Lent and our personal writing challenge ala Nano style


What does Work In Progress Wednesday have to do with Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent? 

Both James and I have been neglecting our writing lately.  We did so well during National Novel Write month, writing every morning and working toward the goal.  We would both get up in the morning and after breakfast, sit down and right for an hour or so.  For me, working on the 50,000 word goal  and for James, writing and finishing his fan fiction story about the super Mario Brothers.  He figured out exactly how many chapters and pages he had to write to use up his 120 page notebook and did exactly that.  Lately, we both have been getting on the internet after breakfast and before you know, it's time to do lessons or whatever else is scheduled for the day.   James is giving up the internet for Lent (his choice) and I'll be limiting my online time.   

We decided that Lent would be a good time to do our own personal novel writing challenge. We have 46 days including the 6 Sundays.    I'm going to shoot for 50,000 words and try to finish Eyes in the Ashes  and will have a daily word goal of approximately 1100 words. I discovered I work better with goals and deadlines.  James will shoot for writing every day and finishing his story, another fan fiction tale about Mario and Bowser, by the end of Lent.   When he's done, he wants to post the story online and I'm going to set him up with a blog for him to post a chapter a week.

How has your writing been going lately?  Great or having a mid winter slump?   If you need incentive and want to join us, let me know.  I'll be reporting our progress periodically throughout Lent. 

The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane

The Forgotten Legion

Ben Kane

Back Cover:  Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery, and then later sold; Romulus to gladiator school and Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome.    Tarquinius is an Etruscan, a warrior, born enemy of Rome and trained in the forgotten arts of divination.  He has a long foretold destiny that will take him to the ends of the known world.   Brennus is a Gaul whose entire clan was killed in a battle against the Roman army.  After being sold as a slave he rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day.    In a story that ranges from a Rome riven by corruption, violence and political enmities to the very edges of the empire, The Forgotten Legion is a novel of the most powerful empire in history told from the perspective of the lowest rungs of its society. 
"The Forgotten Legion" is an excellent book, very well written, grabs your attention from the very beginning and doesn't let it go.  I'm usually don't read historical fiction because I find them dull, flat, and boring most of the time.     Ben Kane's epic novel surrounding  the lives of Romulus, Fabiola, Tarquinius and Brennus in ancient Rome changed my mind.    Do you think I like it just a little. :)  I normally don't get effusive over a book, but I really, really enjoyed this one.   Yes, what happens to the characters and following it from their perspective could make you cringe at times.  It was a brutal era.  Plus the  lives of the slaves were just a full of political strife and politics and backstabbing as the upper class.

I think what made the story so enjoyable is I just finished taking a course in Art from the Ancients up the 14th century.  Learning all about the art and architecture of the Roman era, then reading as the characters and their activities took place in the roman forum to pompey to the silk highway to the coliseum where the gladiator fights were held was just fascinating to me.   Made reading the story a much richer experience.    I highly recommend it.  

  Thank you to Trish and TLC book tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour and publisher St. Martin's Press with providing me a copy of the book and Ben Kane for writing such an incredible story.  The Forgotten Legion happens to be book one in a trilogy.  I look forward to reading the sequel The Silver Eagle which will be released March 16, 2010.   Kane also has a third book in the works and you can check it out at his website.

Please visit the other stops on the tour to see what the other participants thought.
*ftc notice:  book received free of charge and review is my totally unbiased opinion. I did not receive any compensation  in exchange for the review and  links to amazon are not affiliate links.

Carrie's Ireland Reading Challenge


hosted by Carrie of Books and Movies

This is one challenge I just have to join because I am part Irish after all and have the Irish temper to prove it.  :)   It will fit in well with some of my other challenges - Historical, Reading Western Europe and New authors.   

Here's the deal
  • You can join in anytime.
  • The challenge runs from Feb 1 through Nov 30, 2010
  • The books can apply to other challenges.
  • Rereads are allowed.
    Books that apply - written by an Irish author, set in Ireland, or involving Irish history or Irish characters.
  • Books may be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, audiobooks, children’s books
Choose your commitment level:

  • Shamrock level: 2 books 
  • Luck o’ the Irish level: 4 books 
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone level: 6 books
I'm going for broke, since I've always wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone (my grandmother did) and do it metaphorically by joining the Kiss The Blarney Stone Level and read 6 books.   Thanks to Carrie, I just won a copy of "An Irish Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor so it will be one of the books I'll be reading.  After looking up Frank Delaney and checking out his books on Amazon, I've fallen in love, so will be reading "Ireland: A Novel."    Coincidentally, I've been offered the chance to join in on the TLC book tour of Delaney's Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show.  An offer I just can not pass up, so will be reading that one as well.      Bram Stoker is Irish, did you know that?  I'll be checking out his book "The Snake's Pass."  Also will be re-reading "QB VII" by Leon Uris.  I haven't figured out the last book yet, but if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Come join the Ireland Reading Challenge with me and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

Books Read:

1.  Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show - Frank Delaney
2.  Endgame - Samuel Beckett

TSS: Happy Valentine's Day !!!!!!!!!!

Renoir "the Lovers" 

Virtual Hugs and Candy Kisses for everyone!

What do you have planned for the day?  Our day is going to be lazy.  It has been a hectic week and we need a day of rest.  I may run out to the store later and pick up a roast beef so we can have roast and yorkshire pudding for dinner.  Or we may just end up having chicken.  Who knows....

My Art History class - western art from the ancient through the 14th century is finally over and I think I'm going to get an A'ish grade, even with getting an 82 on the final.   This class seemed particularly hard and involved much writing and research, but I did learn a lot.   What has been especially neat is coming across settings in some of the historical fiction books I've been reading and recognizing what they are talking about.    "The Forgotten Legion" by Ben Kane, for example which is very well written and an excellent, excellent book set in ancient Rome. I'll be posting my review on Tuesday for the TLC Tour so be sure to drop by, then check out the other participants on the tour.   I'm not a real big fan of historical fiction but have been stepping outside the box lately, reading more of that genre and have to say I've been pleasantly surprised. 

I'm currently reading Stephen King's "Under the Dome" which is a huge novel of 1000+ pages so it's going to keep me occupied for a few days.   Which should give me some time to actually finish writing my reviews for "The Mists of Avalon,"  "Keeping the Feast," and  "The Last Ember" to name a few.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.  I'm going to be limiting my time on the internet but not giving it up altogether.  Which means I'll be avoiding Twitter and Facebook for the time being.  We are going on a buying ban and won't be buying any books, games, or video's during lent.  I gave James a choice of giving up the internet, Wii or the Nintendo DS for lent.  He chose the internet.  However, will still use for educational things.   

What we will be doing Lent is reading some interesting books however.   Whether you are Catholic or not, Pope Benedict is an excellent writer and theologian.   Last year I read "Jesus of Nazareth" (review) which just blew me away and just made me want to read more of his books.  This year I will be reading "The Apostles"  and "Lent and Easter Wisdom" by Thomas Merton.   I read "Seven Storey Mountain" (review) last year which actually turned out to be quite interesting.  Also in store is "Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions" by James Beverely which I received through Thomas Nelson's Book Blogger review program.   

It's a comprehensive guide to over 200 religions, sects and cults from a christian perspective.  I've been meaning to read it for quite a while, but it is one of those books that will take time.  It contains lots of information and I'll be doing a bit of fact checking along the way.  Just like I did with Da Vinci code when all the hype started after it came out.  I re-read it a second time and looking up information about all the different issues raised in the book.  James and I will be reading "Lent is for Children" by Julie Kelemen and doing some of the activities such as taking a nature walk and baking eucharistic bread.   As a family we will be reading "Windows on the World," discussing what has been happening in different countries and praying for them.

And I'm going to make a concentrated effort to finish "Eye in the Ashes."    Wish me luck.

Week 7 for 52 books in 52 weeks is all about G.  G is for Grace, gratitude and giving, plus a few author birthdays such as the creator of Clifford, the big read Dog.  He was a big favorite in our household when James was younger.

Check out F is for Fantasy over on Mind Voyages and let me know who you think should be on the list.    I'm still contemplating what G will be for this week.  Any suggestions?

John's Corner is live and a new post will be up soon so bookmark or follow to see what he has to say next.   

The Sunday Check out what every one else is up to this week in the Salon

Have a wonderful week and make sure you tell that special someone you love them - every day!

Winner of Michael Palmer's The Last Surgeon


The Winner is 

As chosen by

Congratulations to Chip for winning The Last Surgeon.

Be sure to check out Michael Palmer's website for more information about The Last Surgeon which will be released on February 16th.  Michael will be sending Chip a personally autographed copy of The Last Surgeon.   Thank you to everyone who entered. 

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World


Robert Jordan 

Book 1 in Wheel of Time Series 

Back cover:  "The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend.  Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again.  In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance.  What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow."

I read "The Eye of the World" as part of the Dare Challenge by Heather J.   Honestly, I thought I had read it before but discovered I hadn't.   That is what comes from being a voracious reader.  After a while all the covers at the store start to look the same or old books get new covers and suddenly you are very confused as to what you read and didn't read.  I actually quite enjoyed the story and the Prologue Teaser for Book 2 at the end of the book sounds very enticing so will probably go on to read book 2. 

"The Eye of the World" is book one in a epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan.  Jordan died while writing the last book in the series and Brandon Sanderson was chosen to complete the series.  The last book has been turned into 3 and Book 12 "The Gathering Storm" came out in October.  Book 13 "Towers of Midnight" will be released in the fall and the final book #14 "Memory of Light" in fall of 2011.  Should I decide to read the rest of the series, it will probably take me that long to finish them.    

What's it all about Alfie? (if Michael Caine, Dionne Warwick or Burt Bacharach come to mind, welcome to my world.) Three young men of the town of Edmond's Field in Two Rivers, a backwater town in a far corner of the Kingdom  - Rand, Matt and Perrin -  are thrust into a quest when they each individually see a mysterious man on horseback watching them.  No one else can see him.  He is dressed in black and gives off an aura of evil.  Soon after, they are surprised by the mysterious appearance of a beautiful, yet powerful woman in their town - Moiraine who is an Aes Sedai and her companion and guard Lan who is a warder.

An Aes Sedai has the One Power which is power drawn from the True Source which is the driving force of the universe, which turns the Wheel of Time.  Got that?   In other words, a truly powerful witch.  And only women can be Aes Sedai because all the males (saidins) were driven crazy and tainted by evil by the Dark One at the Time of Madness which is all explained in the prologue.  And the reason why it is important is no man since that time has been able to wield the One Power....  Until now. 

Moiraine senses something in the boys but before she is able to determine if it's just one or all three, the village is attacked by the Dark One's minions - Trollocs.    The Villagers think it is because of Moiraine and want her to leave, even though she fought and protected most of the village.  However, she knows it is because of the boys.  The Dark Lord fears one or all three boys may be the end of him, so they must be killed.    Each boy has been visited in his dreams by Ba'alzamon who wants them to turn to the dark side.  The boys must leave the village and travel with her to Tar Valon where they will be safe with the Aes Sedai and the Warders.  Plus, they will be able to figure out why the Dark One wants the boys.   Thus the start of a long, harrowing, event filled adventure  to Tar Valon.  

If you haven't read the book yet and enjoy reading epic fantasies, then you will enjoy this book.   And perhaps the first story will be so enticing and the characters so engaging,  you'll be prompted to read the 2nd, then the 3rd and so on and so on.  

Thank you to Heather for Daring me to read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.   She just finished reading it again herself and her review can be found here.    Heather will also be talking about the book tonight on That's How I Blog on Blog Talk Radio tonight at 7 pm PST/10 pm EST.   Come join in on the conversation. 

Pages:  814
Publisher:  Tor
Genre:  Epic Fantasy

Other Thoughts:  

"When it comes of the characters, I very much liked the way Jordan chose to treat women. There are no damsel in distress in this book. The women are just as willing to go the needed lengths as men are; they are also, magic-wise, the more powerful, since they are the only ones able to touch the True Source. Quite a cool concept for a novel set in a medieval-like world."

"The story is engrossing and the depth of detail refreshing, if overdone at times. The characters are interesting, the world building excellent and the fresh spins on old ideas are well-done. The book hints at countless more mysteries to come, and makes you want to pick up the second (and much better) book, which is its main goal, after all."

It's all about the tone!

It's all about the Tone!

Father's blog "John's Corner" is now live and cooking.  He will posting once a week about all sorts of things.  His passion is sound - the purity of sound.   He's a guru when it comes to electronics.   So if you or your significant other is an audiophile or just really into music, recording, audio, tubes, designing electronic widgets and loves talking about it, please check out the blog and follow him.    There will be guest posts from recording engineers, musicians, and all kinds of folks.   Stay tuned. 

First Hugo Award winner - The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

The Demolished Man 


Alfred Bester

Back cover:  "In 2301 A.D., guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen.  In 2301 A.D., homicide is virtually impossible--but one man is about to change that.   In this classic science fiction novel, the first to win the prestigious Hugo award, a psychopathic business magnate devises the ultimate scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the order of his society.  Hurtling from the orgies of a future aristocracy to a deep space game preserve, and across the densely realized subcultures of psychic doctors, grifters, and police, The Demolished Man is a masterpiece of high-tech suspense, set in a world in which everything has changed except for the ancient instinct for murder."

Back in 1953 when I was barely a twinkle in my daddy's eye, Alfred Bester won the very first Hugo award for best novel, The Demolished Man.   The people in Bester's futuristic world are peepers, they can read each other's minds.   There are 3 different classes of Espers - the most common are class 3 types that can hear what others are thinking at the moment, Class 2 peepers can read a bit deeper and hear inner thoughts    Class 1 espers  can go even deeper picking up on peoples most inner urges before they even think about them.  Which is the reason why Class 1 espers are all involved in law enforcement and the government.   Bester is able to show some of the conversations the higher evolved peepers have in their minds, thinking at each other and conversing as they think, whether it's chaotically or cohesive.   For example when characters gather for a party (pg 30)

Frankly                     Canapes?                       Why
   Ellery                     Thanks       delicious     yes,
      I                           Mary, they're        Tate,
       Don't                                         I'm
         Think                                   treating
           You'll          Canapes?              D'Courtney.
 We            Be                                       I
brought         Working                                Expect
  Galen           For                                     him
    along          Monarch                                   in
       to           Much   Canapes?                           town
help him celebrate     Longer.                                 shortly.
                He's      The 
          just taken his Guild
                         is   exam
                      just       and
                     about         been
                     to              classed

Much like any social gathering when folks start arriving, conversations are random and chaotic. However, these conversations all take place telepathically.   Which makes for some rather interesting reading until the characters start to think in cohesive patterns. 

So what happens when someone decides to break the law. Usually the level 1 espers are able to catch the person before they do. Then they are subject to "demolition".  However, one man finds a way around that.  Ben Reich is the owner of Monarch Enterprises, a cartel whose rival is Craye d'Courtney.  Reich has been having nightmares about a man without a face and it is driving him crazy.  He takes it into his head that he has to kill Craye when he misreads Crayes acceptance of the merger as refusal.  He goes to a songwriter who teaches him a song that he won't be able to get out of his head for a month.  

"A tune of utter monotony filled the room with agonizing, unforgettable banality.  It was the quintessence of every melodic cliche' Reich had ever heard.  No matter what melody you tried to remember, it invariably led down the path of familiarity to "Tensor, Said the Tensor."  Then Duffy began to sing.

Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; three sir;
two sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor
Tenser, said the Tensor 
Tension, apprehension 
and dissension have begun. 

"Oh my God!"  Reich exclaimed.

"I've got some real gone tricks in that tune," Duffy said, still playing.  "Notice the beat after 'one? That's a semi-cadence. Then you get another beat after 'begun.' That turns the end of the song into a semi-cadence, too, so you can't ever end it.  The beat keeps you running in circles, like:  Tension, apprehension, and dissention have begun.  RIFF. Tension, apprehension, and dissention has begun. Riff..."

"You little devil! Reich started to his feet, pounding his palms on his ears.  "I'm accursed. How long is this affliction going to last?"

"Not more than a month."  (pg 43)

So Reich has this tune running through his head throughout to distract the level 1 peepers while he goes about planning and committing the murder.  However, he doesn't count on a witness, nor Lincoln Powell, the Police prefect.   Despite the song, Lincoln is able to detect what Reich has done telepathically, but it isn't admissible in court. So he has to use old fashioned police techniques to make his case.    Which leads back to the witness who was Craye's daughter who walked in as Reich killed her father.  She runs off and disappears.  Both Reich and Lincoln search for her.  When she is discovered she is found to be psychologically traumatized, cannot speak and doesn't remember anything.  Reich has the opportunity to kill her but doesn't.   Then Lincoln rescues her and attempts to telepathically reach her, while Reich does everything he can to cover his tracks or so his thinks, while going increasingly crazy.  

When Lincoln thinks he has a solid case against Reich, it has to be given to old man Mose who will make the final decision.  Who is old man Mose:

"Old Man Mose himself occupied the entire circular wall of the giant office.  His multitudinous eyes winked and glared coldly.  His multitudinous memories whirred and hummed.  His mouth, the cone of a speaker, hung open in a kind of astonishment at human stupidity.  His hands, the keys of a multiflex typewriter, poised over a roll of tape, ready to hammer out logic.  Mose was the Mosaic Multiplex Prosecution Computer of the District Attorney's Office, whose awful decisions controlled the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of every police case." (pg 169) 

Just when Mose after several false starts comes up with a 97% probability that Reich is guilty, Lincoln is told Craye accepted Reich's offer to merge thus wiping out the motive for murder which he thought was entirely for financial reasons.  

How is he going to take down Reich now?   Will Reich get away with the murder.   Will Craye's daughter ever recover her memory?  What is demolition?   For the answers, you'll have to read the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story and have to say it is has withstood the test of time. 

Alfred Bester (1913-1987) also wrote "Tiger, Tiger," which was released in the U.S. as "The Stars My Destination", plus many short stories.   He wrote the non fiction book "The Life and Death of a Satellite" in 1966.   I'm looking forward to reading both. 

Pages:  243
Publisher: Vintage Books (Random house division)
Genre: Science Fiction

Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings:
"The Demolished Man builds in suspense right up to the shocking conclusion. Ever the master, Bester manages to leave hints in the denouement that perhaps more is going on than initially meets they eye. This is a book that deserves discovery by those who have not read this classic author. It is a captivating read that does not disappoint."

g.n.a.t at A Novel Read:
"Bester clinches the book in the final few pages. Again, he doesn't lay out the details, but he hints just enough to really force the reader to read again and go back and reevaluate the whole story.  If you're a Science Fiction fan, like classic sci fi, and have never read Alfred Bester, go out and buy his books now! They're worth it"