Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Week Thirteen -- M is for Mars

M is for Mars - Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars which are all the brain child of Kim Stanley Robinson.

Today I'm spotlighting Hugo award winner Kim Stanley Robinson.  He was born March 23, 1952 in Waukegan, Illinois, however he considers himself a California native since he has lived in California since he was two years old.    He discovered science fiction, much like I did in the 70's. During his college years, while working on his bachelor's degree,  developed an idea for a series set in Orange county, California taking one character through 3 different futures.  The very first book published in 1984  The Wild Shore (post apocalyptic), in 1988 The Gold Coast (dystopian) and in 1990 Pacific Edge (utopian)

After earning his Master's Degree in English at Boston University in 1975, he returned to California to complete his PhD.   In 1982 he completed his thesis on the works of Philip K. Dick titled:  The Novels of Philip K Dick - Studies in Speculative Fiction.

In 1982, he also married Lisa Howland Nowell, a environmental chemist whose work eventually took them to Switzerland where Kim was able to start writing full time, which results in the futuristic Mars Trilogy (Red  Mars - 1992, Green Mars - 1993 and Blue Mars in 1996) all about exploring  and establishing  a settlement on Mars.


After writing the Mars trilogy, Robinson decided to explore what would have happened in Europe if the black plague had wiped out 99% of the population and  Islamic and Buddhist societies emerged as the world's dominant religious and political forces which resulted in his alternative history novel:

He went on to explore how science and politics interact in Washington DC in the near future with the Science in the Capital trilogy exploring events leading up to and during a worldwide environmental collapse brought about by global warming.

Which brings us to his latest book, Galileo's Dream, a mixture of historical fiction, time travel and alternative history.  In Suduvu, Kim talks about Galileo's Dream - 400 years later.

Kim has won numerous awards and been nominated many times for his creative imagination

1984, World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, for "Black Air" 
1985, Locus Award for Best First Novel, for The Wild Shore 
1987, Nebula Award for Best Novella, for "The Blind Geometer
1991, John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, for Pacific Edge 
1991, Locus Award for Best Novella, for "A Short, Sharp Shock
1992, British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel, for Red Mars
1993, Nebula Award for Best Novel, for Red Mars 
1994, Hugo Award for Best Novel, for Green Mars
1994, Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, for Green Mars
1997, Hugo Award for Best Novel, for Blue Mars
1997, Ignotus Award for Best Foreign Novel, for Red Mars 
1997, Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, for Blue Mars 
1998, Ignotus Award for Best Foreign Novel, for Green Mars 
1999, Seiun Award for Best Foreign Novel, for Red Mars 
2000, Locus Award for Best Collection, for The Martians 
2003, Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, for The Years Of Rice And Salt

In 2007,  an autobiographical story - Kistenpass - was published in the webzine, Flurb about his time in Switzerland.

What's next from the imaginative mind of Kim Stanley Robinson?   In 2009, Orbit Publishing agreed to a three book deal with him and his first book, tentatively titled 2312 will be released in 2012.

"Tim Holman, Orbit VP and Publisher, says: “Kim Stanley Robinson is a writer who can make the future credible, no matter how incredible it might seem. 2312 will be set in our solar system three hundred years from now; a solar system in which mankind has left Earth and found new habitats. This will be a novel for anyone curious to see what our future looks like – a grand science-fictional adventure in every sense – and I’m thrilled that Orbit will be publishing it in both the US and the UK.”

Today, Kim is a stay at home dad, devoting his time to his kids and writing, while his wife continues her work as a full time chemist.  

I challenge you to read at least one of his books this year.  I'm coveting Galileo's Dream right now.


What have you been reading?   Post to your reviews and include the name of the book in parentheses after your name.   

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Week Twelve - L is for linkage love

It's interesting.  I'm currently taking a class in Nobel Literature and the question came up, do you consider the politics of the person when reading the book.  Many of the Nobel prize winners for literature seemed to have been picked due to the politics.   I haven't come across too many books in which the author's politic bothered me one way or the other. Oh what as sheltered life I lead!   Well, the post I had planned for today all geared around a certain book, went south when I discovered some information about the author's politics that totally turned me off.  Suffix it to say I won't be reading any of his books nor will I be supporting the author by highlighting his books here.

Instead I'm going to shower you with linkage love.   Links to book bloggers and book sites that are interesting and informative and all start with "L"

Jackie of Literary Escapism:   Highlights Fantasy and Paranormal authors, plus is hosting  the New Author Challenge 2010.   She has great author guests and interesting giveaways.

She highlights many of the authors from the League of Reluctant Adults.
A huge group of fantasy and paranormal authors including Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, Caitlin Kittredge, J.F. Lewis, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Cherie Priest, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells

Linus's Blanket:   Nicole not only discusses all kinds of books, but she hosts a weekly blog radio shows called "That's How I Blog."   Every Tuesday she interviews a different blogger and discusses a different book called the Twenty Minute Book Club.   Fascinating conversations you don't want to miss.

Staci of Life in the Thumb:  A fellow book addict with eclectic taste and every Saturday posts her Six Sentence Saturday in which she reviews books using only 6 sentences.

Lipstick Chronicles:   Group author blog with Nancy Martin, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Elaine Viets, Sarah Strohmeyer, Kathy Sweeney, Harley Jane Kozak and Me Margie.  You'll be entertained, amused and enlightened by these group of mystery writers.

Stieg Larson:  Author of "the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo" and more.

and Happy Birthday to Lois Lowry:  Author of the Dystopian trilogy "The Giver," "Gathering Blue," and "Messenger."  

Link to your reviews:  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book Week Eleven -- K is for K.M. Weiland

(isn't she adorable!!!)

Where would we be without writers. Well, we wouldn't have any books to read and that would be a shame.  I would be remiss in not highlighting the authors who provide us with the books we read.   Over the years I have discovered some amazing authors.  In my quest to write the 'great American novel' I have discovered many author blogs.  Authors who write not only interesting and intriguing books, but also share their writing journeys and experiences in order to help and inspire aspiring writers.   From the group blogs such as Murderati, Running with Quills, The Deadline Dames, to a wide range of author blogs such as K.M. Weiland, Michelle Moran, Neil Gaiman, Elana Johnson, to Frederik Pohl, Charlie Stross and Jeff Vandermeer to name a few .  Thanks to the blogospere I have found many "new to me authors."  There are many authors I follow and have linked in my sidebars of both My Two Blessing and Mind Voyages.  I'll be spotlighting more of these authors over the coming year from whom we can learn and be entertained from their experiences.

Just like reading is as necessary to breathing to me, stories are like breathing to K.M. Weiland.   I'm working on getting to that place where writing is equal up there with books in the breathing department. 

Why she writes:

From her website:   "Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom."

                        Western Fiction  - First Chapter       Historical Fiction - First Chapter

Have you ever read the first line or paragraph of a book and been hooked by the writing?  That is how I chose whether to read a book or not.  If the description of the book interests me, then I'll open it to the first page and read it.  If that sparks my interest, I choose random pages to peruse.   Weiland's books both sparked with me and I look forward to reading them.  She has also written an e-book which is available free from her site "Crafting Unforgettable Characters" which I am in the process of reading.  It includes some interesting advice such as chapters on "interviewing your characters," "It's what your characters DO that defines them," and "What Dickens can teach us about complex characters."   I just know I'm going to end up printing the whole thing out (thank you for back to back printers) to read again and again. 


"Writing is both a gift and an art. As a gift, it must be approached with humility: the writer is only the vessel through which inspiration flows. As an art, it must be approached with passion and discipline: a gift that’s never developed wasn’t worth the giving."

K.M also blogs at Author Culture with authors Lynette Bonner and Linda Yezak.  Be sure to check them out.  

What new authors have you discovered lately?  


Link to your current reads and reviews in this post , no matter where you are in the challenge. Please link to your specific review post and include the name of the book in parentheses after your name so everyone will know which book you have read.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Special Guest - Sneed B. Collard

I recently read and reviewed  Double Eagle by Sneed B Collard III which I thoroughly enjoyed. Admittedly as a home school mom, I am always on the look out for great books, fiction and non fiction to read and teach James.  Imagine my delight when I discovered Sneed has also written many non fiction books about science, nature, American heroes and more.  I've already added a few to our science reading list for next year.  As a biologist and author, Sneed's travels had taken him all over the world as well as down to the bottom of the sea.  

Today, I am thrilled to welcome Sneed as a guest to My Two Blessings and Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks to talk about Double Eagle and researching the civil war. 

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I’d like to thank Robin for the great review of my novel Double Eagle—and all of you who shared positive responses about it. I have to admit I had a blast writing this book. Like any kid-at-heart, the idea of finding hidden treasure proved an irresistible writing inspiration. I also loved learning more about the relatively unknown topic of the Union blockade of Southern ports during the Civil War.

I researched Double Eagle by doing tons of reading, but also by taking my family to Dauphin Island, Alabama for an entire month. My research reinforced my appreciation for the courage of rank-and-file soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. It also revealed the corruption of many of the more powerful players.

Take the blockade runners. The South relied on these low-profile, fast ships both to smuggle out its cotton, and to smuggle in weapons, medicines, and other materials. To succeed in this task, blockade runners had to sneak past or outrun a phalanx of Union gunships into ports such as Mobile. Although undoubtedly brave, the blockade runners were driven as much by dollars as by a sense of patriotism. The ships and crews were financed primarily by British speculators looking to make a profit—and this profit could be immense. Blockade runners didn’t just carry necessities, as people often presume. They carried large supplies of liquor and other luxury goods for wealthy Southerners as well. If I remember correctly, one successful ‘run’ of supplies earned enough money to build three or four other smuggling ships.

Confederate commanders were not immune to getting their share, either. While talking over plot ideas with the resident historian at Fort Gaines, Alabama (Fort Henry in Double Eagle), we were discussing why there were more cannons at Fort Morgan across the bay than on our side at Fort Gaines. The historian mentioned that apparently, the Confederate commander of Mobile Bay was getting huge kickbacks on each successful blockade run. Fort Morgan’s cannons not only protected Mobile Bay, they guarded the favored route of the blockade runners into and out of the bay—and the commander’s profits.

For those who’d like to learn more about the blockade runners, I highly recommend Blockade Runners of the Confederacy by Hamilton Cochran. If there’s any lesson in exploring these stories, we have not progressed as much as we’d like to think in the last 150 years. From World War II to our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, corruption has not only siphoned off billions in taxpayer dollars, it has robbed soldiers of the equipment and supplies they need to do their jobs as safely as possible. It’s only one aspect of war that makes me seriously question just who benefits from these bloody, costly struggles—and whether or not rushing off to battle really is the most patriotic solution to international conflict.

Thank you, Sneed for dropping by today and we look forward to seeing what you come up with next.  Drop by his website for more information about his books and activities and become a fan on facebook.  

Other thoughts about Double Eagle and Interviews with Sneed:
Beth F of Beth Fish Reads

And the Winner of the "Double Eagle" Giveaway is 

Congratulations, Sue - you and your boys will enjoy it. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Week Ten - J is for Jean Paul Sartre, sort of


Wonderful title for a book isn't it?   Le Nausee by Jean Paul Sartre or in English Nausea.  He is a french existentialism philosopher and won the Nobel Peace prize for literature in 1964.  He actually declined to accept the prize for personal reason, but it didn't not change the fact that he had won.  Nausea will be the first book I will be reading this week for my Nobel Literature class I'm currently taking.


I just started my Nobel Literature class and finding it very interesting.   Yes, it's going to be a lot of work but looking forward to reading several books that I probably normally wouldn't have considered reading.  This week I've been reading all about the history behind the Nobel Peace prize for literature at  Quite an interesting site and well worth perusing when you have the time.  I'll be going back and checking out the information on the rest of the Nobel prizes categories. 

Alfred Nobel was Swedish and when he died, he requested the bulk of his fortune be used to establish a prize which would be divided in 5 equal parts. 

Excerpt from his will:

"The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows:

one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics;
one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement;
one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine;
one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction;
and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiology or medical works by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm, and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not."

He also specified who would be responsible for selecting the noble laureates and for literature, the responsibility was given to the Swedish Academy.  A big question has always been how does one  get nominated.   Well, an author cannot nominate himself.   He must be nominated by what the Academy considers a qualified person.  Who is qualified?   

  • members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies similar to it in membership and aims;
  • professors of literary and linguistic disciplines at universities and university colleges;
  • former Nobel Laureates in Literature;
  • presidents of authors’ organisations which are representative of the literary activities of their respective countries.
Then the academy gleans through the candidates, eventually narrows down the nominations to a select few, reads their works and decides whom will win the prize.   The members of the Academy don't always agree and it seems there have been some controversial and what some consider politically motivated awards handed out to writers.  Plus there has been controversy regarding some of the authors who haven't won, whom some considered better qualified.  And then you have some authors who didn't want to accept the prize because they considered it the death of their career.

And you have a group of 18 people who are interpreting Nobel's words "the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction."   It depends entirely on their definition of ideal.   The members of the academy are a diverse group of historian, literary linguists and historians.

My main thought while reading all this was where did the money come from. Was Alfred Nobel independently wealthy, did he inherit the money himself, where did all this money come from that is being used to fund the prize?   Long story short, in 1867 he invented Dynamite.  He had factories and laboratories in over 90 places in 20 different countries.  He had initially created dynamite to be used for mining and because it ended up being used for purposes he never intended, he created the Nobel Prize.

The Nobel Prize Winners in Literature 

I'll be reading 4 more books by Nobel Prize winning authors during this class including the four  I mentioned previously:  

Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre -  1964 prize  (french) He actually declined the award for fear it would impact his writing.

Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann -  1929 prize  (German) Even though in his acceptance speech he said writers were non orators, he was quite eloquent.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 1982 prize Literary Fiction set in a mythical Latin American town.  The committee likened him to William Faulkner

The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe - 1994 prize Japanese literature.  According to the committee "Your books offer, indeed, such a "model", enabling us to see the interaction of time present and time past, of relentless change and persistent myth, and to distinguish man's delicate position in the context."

The four other books I had to choose from different regions of the country and two must be a novel, one of poetry and one of Drama.  For novels I will be reading a novel by Ernest Hemingway (1954 prize) United States region.   I've been wanting to read "The Old Man and The Sea" but have never quite gotten around to it. From Turkey,  Orhan Pamuk. (2006 Prize)  I'm still trying to decide which one of his I want to read. I'm considering "the House of Silence (if I can find it), "The White Castle," or  "The New Life."

From Latin America, I will be reading the poetry of Gabriela Mistral (1945 Prize) and from Europe a drama by Samuel Beckett (1969 prize). I'm debating between "Waiting for Godot" and "Krapp's Last Tape.

Reading, analyzing and discussing eight books in fifteen weeks will most likely keep me very busy. And most likely will start me on a new path to reading all the Nobel authors over a period of time. 

How about you?  Are any of the Nobel Prize winners on your reading lists this year? 

Link to your current reads and reviews in this post , no matter where you are in the challenge.  Please link to your specific review post and include the name of the book in parentheses after your name so everyone will know which book you have read.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Double Eagle by Sneed B. Collard III


Sneed B. Collard III

Front Flap:  The Year is 1862.  A Confederate ship, the Skink, is attacked by Union Forces and sinks off the Alabama Coast.  In spite of rumors that the ship was carrying gold coins, no trace of the wreck and not a single piece of Confederate gold is ever found.

Fast Forward to 1973.  Thirteen-year-old Mike is prepared for another routine summer in Pensacola with his marine biologist father.  But plans change and Mike finds himself on Ship Wreck Island -- near the site where the Skink went down and right in the middle of a century old mystery!

Mike and his new friend Kyle are intrigued by a salvaged ship anchored just offshore.  Some say it was brought in by fortune hunters seraching for the long lost Confederate ship and its treasure.  But when they sneak into a restricted chamber of the fort on the island, the boys make a startling discovery that may mean the fortune hunters are looking in the wrong place.

Just as they begin to unravel the mystery, Mike and Kyle find themselves trying to outrun the hurricane bearing down on the island and outwit thieves who will do anything to get their hands on the missing fortune!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Double Eagle," a young adult mystery written by Sneed B. Collard III centered around a civil war mystery.  The story begins in 1862 with the confederate captain of the paddle wheel steamer, the Skink, preparing to leave port of crescent city (new orleans) for the safety of Cuba.    He is stopped by a confederate major who orders him to take a cargo chest to Fort Henry or else he will take over his boat. The captain was able to deliver the cargo safely, but after fleeing up the coast is sunk by union ships. 

When Mike travels to Florida to stay with his dad for the summer, he discovers his dad has taken a different summer job and will be studying invertebrate zoology at a brand new lab located in an old air force radar base on Shipwreck Island.  Next to the base is an old civil war fort, Fort Henry.   Mike expects to end up spending his summer like he usually does - helping his dad, exploring the island and collecting coins for his coin collection.    He is surprised to discover a kindred soul who enjoys collection coins just as much as him in 15 year old  Kyle.   

Their summer takes an interesting turn when they meet Anton Dubois, a local elderly resident who tells them all about the civil war and the mystery of the confederate coins.  And when they start asking questions of a salvage team searching for the wreck of the Skink and the coins, they become suspicious of the boys.  The boys decide to solve the mystery of the lost coins and go searching for the coins themselves and sneak into closed off areas of Fort Henry hoping to find the coins.  

Double Eagle is a well written, action packed mystery - throw in 2 teenage boys, some intrigue, danger and a category four hurricane heading in the direction of the island and you have an exciting, entertaining story.  Though written for the age 9 to 12 set, I think it will appeal to all age ranges.   Thank you to Erin of Peachtree Publishers for providing me with a courtesy copy of the book. 

What to know what other folks think:

"Double Eagle is a well-written and complex story with plenty of action, good characters, and light layer of history. Mike and Kyle are believable as fourteen-year-old boys in the years before the Internet, X-Boxes, iPods, and text messaging. They spend the summer fishing, riding bikes, hanging out, and hoping for adventure."

"Mike and Kyle are nicely drawn characters. I love the book’s historical and scientific aspects. I don’t often find the sciences portrayed in a fun yet accessible way."

"Although categorized as ages 9-12, this is a fantastic adventure story for all ages to enjoy. I think what makes it work for the teen + reader is that most, if not all, can relate to treasure hunting...who didn't go off in search of treasure when they were younger?"


I am giving away one new copy of Double Eagle, courtesy of the publisher.   Please leave your name and email address in the comments.   The giveaway is open to U.S. Residents and the deadline is March 10th. The winner will be picked using   

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