Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book Week 22 - in Memoriam

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,
May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

Freedom's Colors

by Roger Hancock

Red is for Bravery;
blood shed in sacrifice.
Freedom came with lives the price.

White is for Liberty;
freedom's purity.
Life be free from God's decree.

Blue is for Justice;
as vast as the sky.
Over freedom's land to occupy.


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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Week 21 -- U is for ubiquitous ambiguity

For some reason, the first thing that crossed my mind for the letter U was ubiquitous ambiguity.    Ubiquitous - being or seeming to be everywhere at the same time.  Ambiguity - uncertainty of meaning or intention.  Hmmm!  Remind you of anybody?  

U is for universal - present everywhere. U is for unusual - rare or uncommon.  U is for unique - one of a kind.  U is unknown, that is unknown to you or me until we hear or see the name, then we see it everywhere.     What books or authors have universal appeal?    Well known classics writers such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or a more contemporary authors such as J.K. Rowling of the Harry Potter series.   How about French Novelist Marcel Proust, or German Essayist Thomas Mann.   Are the books with universal appeal ones that are easy to read and generally appeal to a wide audience such as James Patterson.  Do certain genres such as Mysteries or Urban fantasy or Romance have more universal appeal than Westerns or Horror?   What about utopian or dystopian?

Speaking of dystopian  (like my segue..)  check out The League of Extraordinary Writers - the new blog for 4 debut science fiction and dystopian authors: Beth Revis, Julia Karr, Angie Smibert and and Jeff Hirsch. 

What books or authors do you think have universal appeal?   What comes to mind when you hear ubiquitous ambiguity?  

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Week 20 - T is for Tolstoy

1828 - 1910

"Faith is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby we live.

Last year, I read my very first Leo Tolstoy's book - War and Peace.  When I started reading the book, I had never read anything by Leo Tolstoy, nor did I have any preconceived ideas about the story. From the very beginning I was captured and couldn't put the book down.  
Front Flap synopsis: "At a lavish party in St. Petersburg in 1805, amid the glittering crystal and chandeliers, the room buzzes with talk of the prospect of war. Soon battle and terror will engulf the country, and the destinies of its people will be changed forever. War and Peace has as its backdrop Napoleon's invasion of Russia and at its heart three of literature's most memorable characters: Pierre Bezukhov, a quixotic young man in search of life's meaning; Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, a cynical intellectual transformed by suffering in war; and the bewitching Natasha Rostov, whose impulsiveness threatens to destroy her happiness. As they seek fulfillment, fall in love, make mistakes, and become scarred by conflict in different ways, these characters and their stories interweave with those of a huge cast, from aristocrats to peasants, from soldiers to Napoleon himself. Battles, love affairs, births, deaths, changing family fortunes, unforgettable scenes of wolf hunts, Russian dancing, starlit troika rides, the great comet of 1812--the entire spectrum of human life is here in all its grandeur and imperfection."
The Anthony Briggs translation stays faithful to the original Russian but takes out all the thee's, thou's and thy's for easier reading. Also included is a list of characters in the back of the book you can refer to, because there are many, many characters and if you don't pay close attention, it is easy to get them confused.

Tolstoy blends history with fiction to create an interesting, educational, classical story about war, love, family, and power. In the latter part of the story Tolstoy mixes in his analysis of the actions of Napoleon, Alexander and the people surrounding them. The Russian Commander in Chief, Kutozov was one particular person whom Tolstoy felt should have been honored over Napoleon.

"For Russian historians (strange and terrible to relate) Napoleon, the least significant instrument of history, who never once in any place, not even in exile, displayed a trace of human virtue, is an object of admiration and enthusiasm; he is one of their 'great men'.

By contrast, Kutozov, the man who from start to finish during his period of command in 1812, from Borodino to Vilna, never once let himself down by word or deed, an unparalleled example of self sacrifice and the ability to see today's events with tomorrow's significance, this Kutuzov is conceived of by the same historians as a rather pathetic, nondescript character, and any mention of him in relation to the year 1812 always causes a stir of embarrassment.

And yet it is difficult to think of any historical figure whose activity shows a greater determination to focus continually on a single aim. It is difficult to imagine a more noble aim, or one more closely attuned to the will of an entire nation. And it would be even more difficult to find an example anywhere in history of a historical personage accomplishing his declared aim more completely than Kutuzov did after total commitment to it in 1812." pg 1208

In the Epilogue, Tolstoy analyzes how historians apply the actions of one person and represent it as the action of an entire people. He discusses the actions of Napoleon, the question of power and whether power is taken by one person or given to that person by a select few or the masses.

"How did these individuals compel whole nations to act in accordance with their will? pg 1317

What is the meaning of power and what happens if no one follows that power. What is the meaning of free will and if people are influenced by the actions of those around them or if it is all meant to be. His examination of the events of 1812 is very interesting and gives you much to think about.

Not only did I fall in love with the characters, I was fascinated by the whole story, how events unfolded and one person's actions affected not just one person, but everyone.

I'm looking forward to reading Anna Karenina at some point this year.  Think I'll wait until my nobel literature class is over so I can give it my full attention.  

Leo Tolstoy's works include: 


Anna Karenina
Father Sergius
Hadji Murad
Master and Man
The Cossacks
The Death of Ivan Ilych
The Forged Coupon
The Kreutzer Sonata
War and Peace


A Confession
The Kingdom of God is Within You


Fruits of Culture
The Power of Darkness

Short Stories:

A Grain As Big As A Hen's Egg
A Lost Opportunity
A Prisoner in the Caucasus
A Spark Neglected Burns the House
After the Dance
Alyosha the Pot
An Old Acquaintance
Esarhaddon, King of Assyria
Evil Allures, But God Endures
God Sees the Truth, But Waits
How Much Land Does a Man Need?
Ivan the Fool
Little Girls Wiser Than Men
My Dream
The Bear Hunt
The Candle
The Coffee-House of Surat
The Empty Drum
The Godson
The Imp and the Crust
The Repentant Sinner
The Young Tsar
There Are No Guilty People
Three Hermits
Three Questions
Too Dear!
Two Old Men
What Men Live By
Where Love Is, God Is
Work, Death, and Sickness


A Letter to A Hindu
On the Significance of Science and Art
On Labour and Luxury
To Women
The Census in Moscow

Several of his works are available to read online at Project Gutenberg and Classic authors.  Pick up and read one of Leo Tolstoy's works this year. You'll be glad you did.


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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Week 19 - S is for Sawyer

S is for Sawyer, Robert Sawyer. Robert J. Sawyer is one of the six nominees for the 2010 Hugo Award in the Best Novel category for "Wake."  

Excerpt from Chapter one:  

Not darkness, for that implies an understanding of light.
      Not silence, for that suggests a familiarity with sound.
      Not loneliness, for that requires a knowledge of others
But still, faintly, so tenuous, that if it were any less it wouldn't exist at all: awareness
     Nothing more than that.   Just awareness - a vague, ethereal sense of being.

Being...but not becoming.  No marking of time, no past or future --- only an endless, featureless now, and, just barely there in that boundless moment, inchoate and raw, the dawning of perception...

Makes me want to go out and buy "Wake" right now.  Wake is book one in the WWW trilogy: Wake, Watch, and Wonder.  The first two are available now and you can read first chapter excerpts on the www trilogy web site. 

Sawyer, born April 29, 2010 in Ottawa Canada, sold his first short science fiction story in 1979 to the Strasenburgh Planetarium which they produced as part of a dramatic starshow trilogy called "Futurescapes" in 1980.   While attending Ryerson University and working on his Bachelor of Applied Arts in Radio and Television Arts, he had his first story published in  Ryerson's 1980 Literary Annual - White Wall Review.  

The story "The Contest" was included in the anthology 100 Great Fantasy Short Stories released in 1984.  After graduating from Ryerson, he spent the next six years writing mainly non fiction freelance articles for various American and Canadian magazines.   His true love however was writing science fiction and he decided to concentrate on writing novels full time.   

His debut novel was Golden Fleece published in 1999

The story is unique in that is it told from the viewpoint of the Starcology Argo's ship's computer, Jason. One of the ship's crew is murdered and the finger points straight at the artificially intelligent computer.  

After that he wrote Farseer, book 1 in the  Quintaglio Ascension series which revolved around the world of a group of intelligent dinosaurs.

His next book, End of an Era continued with the dinosaur theme but took us back through time travel to the beginning of the world to find out what really happened to the dinosaurs. 

Sawyer explored many interesting themes in his books including SETI, artificial intelligence, time travel, dinosaurs, psychology, murder and the nature of consciousness to name a few.  

In his Neanderthal Parallax series, he explored the question:  what would have happened if there was another world in which the neanderthals have survived and became the dominant species.   How would their world differ from ours?  He won the 2003 Hugo award for Hominids.

In his next standalone book, he went on to explore in Mindscan what would happen if in order to avoid suffering an inherited  debilitation disease that would turn you into a vegetable, if you could have your mind scanned and assume an android body while your body is shipped off to the moon.   Would the people you know accept you?  If a cure was discovered, could you be scanned back into your body?   

Which brings us to his WWW trilogy.  WWW.Watch was just released on April 6th and continues Caitlin's story from WWW.Wake.    He is currently working on Wonder and I'm not sure when it will be released. 

Sawyer has also written a number of short stories which are available to read online.  He has won many awards and accolades for his work over the years.   According to the Ottawa Citizen he is the "Dean of Science Fiction."   If you'd like to know more about Robert J. Sawyer, check out his autobiography on

I have a mini challenge for you all - read all six hugo nominees this year.   I'm looking forward to reading WWW.Wake as *gasp* I haven't read any of his books yet.  


Link to your reviews: 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Week 18 - R is for Romance

Romance novels come in a wide variety these days: contemporary, historical, paranormal, inspirational and suspense to erotica.  I first started reading Harlequin romances when I was a teenager back in the 70's.   I just happened to come across a few I saved in one of my stored book boxes the other day.   

These are from 1978 to 1986.  The pages are slightly yellowed and it was fun to look back through them. Brought back memories of the time.  Then I was going through the boxes of books we had inherited from my hubby's mom and found this gem.

One of Debbie Macomber's earlier works from 1986.  Yes, the Debbie Macomber of the Cedar Cove and Blossom Street series.  I got out of the habit of reading romance for a long, long time until 2007 when I discovered Nora Roberts. I forget who suggested her to me or how I discovered her but the very first book I read was 

I feel in like instantly, read through the whole Macgregor series and then went on to read her other series and standalones.  Thank goodness for my local used bookstore having a wonderful romance section.  I  have since read almost everything she has written including her In Death series (read it twice)  which she wrote under the pen name of J.D. Robb.   She restored my faith in good romance stories that aren't cheesy. I soon came to find out she is the Diva of Romance novelists.  Her novels range from pure romance to suspense to paranormal to futuristic.   Each trilogy or series is unique and the characters - they grow on you and by the end of each book or series, you're left with a warm cozy feeling and really don't want the story to end.  Which just makes you want to read them again and again.  I just finished reading the 3rd book just released on April 27th (thank you - Amazon)  in her most recent series, the Bride Quartet,  Savor the Moment.  

The fourth book, Happy Ever After will be out in November.  If you've never read a Nora Roberts book, you don't know what you've been missing.   And if you are ever in Boonesboro, Maryland, be sure to drop by her husband's book store Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe or her bed and breakfast Inn Boonsboro


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