Sunday, April 29, 2012

BW18: Japan's Golden Week

The garden of Komyozenji in Dazaifu.

My son loves Japanese monster movies and would love to go to Japan one of these years, tour Toho Studios and visit all the places Godzilla has stomped.  This week just happens to be Golden Week in Japan and they are celebrating 4 national holidays:  

April 29 is Showa Day celebrating the birthday of the former emperor Showa.

May 3 is Constitution Day. The new post war constitution was put into effect in 1947 replacing the old Meijii Constitution from 1889. Plus girls are celebrated during Girl's Festival in which families wish their daughters happy and successful lives.

May 4 is Greenery Day celebrating the environment and nature because the former Emperor Showa loved plants and nature.

May 5 is Children's Day and boys are celebrated on this day in the aptly called Boys Festival in which families pray for the healthy of future success of their sons and display samurai dolls and carp streamers which all symbolize strength, power and success.
So when or if we ever go to Japan, I'll have to remember not to go during Golden week when the whole country is on holiday.   While perusing the internet for Japan I stumbled across a great list on Goodreads  which of course lists author  Haruki Murakami who wrote "1Q84" and a list of books on Squidoo which give real insight into Japan instead of stereotypes.  Definitely an interesting selection of books and well worth checking out.  Also Benihana's restaurants are celebrating with a Children helping Drawing Contest.  Now if I can just talk my two picky eaters into going out for a Japanese meal.  


Happy Birthday to Authors 

Robert J. Sawyer - April 29
Larry Niven - April 30
Joel Rosenberg - May 1 
Andy Adams - May 3
Susan Spencer Paul - May 4 

Read one of their books in their honor!



Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you have multiple reviews, then type in (multi) after your name and link to your general blog url.  If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

BW 17: Reimagine the Iliad and Odyssey

On my bucket list of books to read during my life as well as one of the books listed on Susan Wise Bauer's Well Educated Mind, is Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.  The books sit on our shelves gathering dust and one day I'll attempt them.  Maybe a challenge and goal for us for next year - Hmm!   I have a tendency to read more modern books, but also enjoy stories that retell the story.   So I was totally thrilled when my latest Bookmark's magazine came in highlighting stories that re-imagine the Iliad and the Odyssey.  More authors and books to add to my wishlist and now yours.  *grin*

Random by David Malouf
Synopsis: " David Malouf shines new light on Homer’s ILIAD, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant.In this exquisite gem of a novel, Achilles is maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son, Hector, being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body - of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp ...Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking Malouf’s fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature - themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times."

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s Foreword to The Penelopiad:   “Homer’s Odyssey is not the only version of the story. Mythic material was originally oral, and also local -- a myth would be told one way in one place and quite differently in another. I have drawn on material other than the Odyssey, especially for the details of Penelope’s parentage, her early life and marriage, and the scandalous rumors circulating about her. I’ve chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn’t hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I’ve always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself.”

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin

Book Synopsis: "Troy has fallen. Rome is a tiny village by the seven hills... At the end of Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid, the Trojan hero Aeneas, following his destiny, is about to marry the Italian girl Lavinia. But in the poem, she has played only the slightest part, and has never spoken a word.  Daughter of a local king, Lavinia has lived in peace and freedom, till suitors came seeking her hand, and a foreign fleet sailed up the Tiber. Now her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus, but strange omens, prophecies spoken by the voices of the sacred trees and springs, foretell that she must marry a stranger. And that she will be the cause of a bitter war. And that her husband will not live long. Lavinia is determined to follow her own destiny. And when she talks with the spirit of the poet in the sacred grove, she begins to see that destiny. So she gains her own voice, learning how to tell the story Vergil left untold — her story, her life, and the love of her life.

Helen of Troy by Margaret George
 Author Description: "Margaret George breathes new life into the great Homeric tale by having Helen narrate her own story. Through her eyes and in her voice, we experience the young Helen’s discovery of her divine origin and her terrifying beauty. While hardly more than a girl, Helen married the remote Spartan king Menelaus and bore him a daughter. By the age of twenty, the world’s most beautiful woman was resigned to a passionless marriage—until she encountered the handsome Trojan prince Paris. And once the lovers flee to Troy, war, murder, and tragedy become inevitable."

Please share some authors and/or books you've discovered that tell the story in a different way or bring to life the characters of old.


Happy Birthday to Authors

Janet Evanovich - April 22
Sue Grafton - April 24 
Deborah Chester - April 25 
Lisa Unger - April 26 
Rebecca York - April 27
Harper Lee - April 28
Alistair MacLean - April 28
Terry Pratchett - April 28
Ian Rankin - April 28 
  Violet Winspear - April 28

Read one of their books in their honor!

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you have multiple reviews, then type in (multi) after your name and link to your general blog url.

If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

BW16: Judge a Book by the Cover

A couple years back I joined a challenge in which one of the tasks was to pick a book by its cover. The hard part, not to read the blurb and find out what it is about beforehand.  Easier said than done. The temptation is just a bit too much.  Especially in person - however it is a bit easy to do when on line.  Since then have chosen books a few times using that method.  Usually end up with something excellent.    I perused Amazon yesterday, wandered about and discovered a few covers by new to me authors  that really intrigued me and made me want to know more about the book. 

What do you think?  Which one should I read?  I dare you to try picking out a book based on its cover alone and see what you end up with.   Of course, you have to share.


The Winner of the Frank Peretti Illusion Giveaway is 


Congratulations, Kiki and thanks to everybody for entering.  

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you have multiple reviews, then type in (multi) after your name and link to your general blog url.

If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

BW15: National Poetry Month

I was never a real big fan of poetry growing up. However, I've learned to appreciate it as grown older and have even tried my hand at writing a few haiku and written poems as clues for characters in my stories. Actually had a lot of fun coming up with a sinister poem,  which if my female lead can figure it out, will lead to a kidnapped woman. *grin*

There are so many different forms poetry can take from acrostic to ballads to dirge to sonnets to name a few.  The Academy of American Poets at have come up with some fun ways to celebrate poetry this month including 30 poets, 30 Days in which one poet a day will post an array of words and images on Tumblr before passing it on to the next person.  Be sure to check it out. You may get lost for a while like I did once I came across it.   They have also declared April 26th to be Poem in your Pocket day in which you select a favorite poem or write one yourself and share it with everyone online and off. 

Celebrations around the blogosphere include Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit who is hosting a poetry blog tour with various bloggers talking about poetry. Gerald Poetic Justice Press is hosting the 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly with crime writers talking about and sharing poems.  

I also discovered Bill Moyer's Fooling with Words  where he explores the world of American poetry and has clips from the 1998 Dodge poetry festival.  Be sure to check it out. 

Want to inspire the young poets in your life.  Check out

A Road Less Traveled 


Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you have multiple reviews, then type in (multi) after your name and link to your general blog url.

If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ask Frank (Peretti) Blog Tour and Giveaway

Hey Gang,

I have a special middle of the week guest and giveaway!

Back in the late 80's I happened to be perusing the shelves at my local christian book store and stumbled up a new novel -  This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. The premise of angels and demons battling over the possession of the inhabitants of a small town intrigued me. Have you ever read a novel that was so visually stunning, it creates a visceral reaction that sticks with you forever.  Frank Peretti knows how to verbally paint a picture and has continued to do so in all his novels from his very first This Present Darkness to Tilly to Visitation.  So when he released his latest book after a long seven years, I immediately ordered it and read it.  Illusions is one of those stories that makes you hold your breath wondering what's going to happen next. 

So imagine my surprise and delight when I received an email asking if I wanted to be part of the ASK FRANK Blog tour. I am the last stop on the tour of 9 bloggers made up of nine pastors, authors and book reviewers who had the pleasure of asking Frank all about Illusions, his writing process, his ideas behind the story and more.  Be sure to check out the other chats with Frank. 

 Can you tell us about the story behind Illusion?

As with all of my stories, there is no single source or spark of inspiration.  Every story comes together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle spilled out on a table. Lots of little ideas float around looking for partners, and then they connect, and then they find other pieces, and ideas lead to other ideas, and before long I start to see a story appearing. 
I suppose the love story in Illusion reflects my own marriage, my own love story in how love can endure, deepen, and take on such a transcendent meaning over time. I guess the love that Barbara and I have for each other can only be expressed by writing a story.
Why did you choose to use magic and Illusion as a framework for this book?

I chose magic and illusion for two reasons:

Obviously, magic would be interesting and highly visual, and would also afford plenty of opportunity for mystery.

Secondly, Mandy’s sudden, unexplainable ability to create and perform such mysterious effects works right into the whole inter-dimensional, time bending element, the “sci-fi bad guy” intrigue of the story.

What is the main idea you want people to take home after they read Illusion?

I guess you’re asking me, what is the story’s central theme? I would call this story a celebration, a depiction of love, marriage, honor, and commitment such as God purposed them to be, and on a deeper level, a parable about Christ’s love for his bride and how his bride longs to be with Him in intimate relationship.

And guys, this is not a “chick” book.  It’s a story for everybody.  We could use a few more Mandy's with tenacious devotion to their man and a few more Danes who give themselves for their woman as Christ gave Himself for His church. 

Of all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite and why? 

 As always, I’ll speak from my present day point of reference and say that Mandy (from Illusion) is my favorite character, and that is because she is, in the final view, a true hero and bearer of faith, hope, and love. 

What's next for you? 

That is the million dollar question right now. Barbara and I both feel that the Lord is bringing about a change in our lives, a new season, but He has so far withheld any details. I do anticipate writing some more novels since that seems to be what I do best, and I’m sure that these novels will arise from whatever it is the Lord is working in our lives right now.

Thank you, Mr. Peretti for joining us today and I for one look forward to reading your future novels.  I am giving away one copy of Illusions  and the giveaway is open to readers of both My Two Blessings and Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks through April 7th (U.S. residents only.)   Please leave a comment letting me know which Frank Peretti book is your favorite along with your email address.

Be sure to check out Frank's Facebook page tonight April 4th (9 p.m. eastern) and join in The Last Hurrah Party where he will be giving away more copies of Illusion. 

Thank you to Howard Books (imprint of Simon and Schuster) for providing me with a giveaway copy,  Mark of C. Grant and Company for organizing the tour, and Frank Peretti for writing such wonderful characters and stories.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

BW14: Read a Russian Author Month

I declare April to be Read a Russian Author Month.  I am reading "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevysky (translation by Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky.)   I've spent the past 4 days at the Left Coast Crime mystery conference mixing it up with mystery writers which means I will have a few more new to me authors to talk about. 

We are also honored this week to be one of the 9 bloggers to host Frank Peretti for his ASK FRANK blog tour.  He will be visiting on April 4th so be sure to stop by and give him a big welcome, say hi, ask him a question or two and check out his new book Illusion which I highlighted in week 9.   We will be doing a giveaway here and on my blog My Two Blessings in order to give all my readers a chance to participate. Woot! Woot! 

I'll leave you with an excerpt of the first chapter from The Brothers Karamazov:

Part I.
Book I: The History of a Family
Chapter 1: Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov

ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place. For the present I will only say that this "landowner" -- for so we used to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his own estate -- was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, a type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of those senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after their worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else.

Fyodor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with next to nothing; his estate was of the smallest; he ran to dine at other men's tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless, fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was not stupidity -- the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd and intelligent enough -- but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of it.

He was married twice, and had three sons, the eldest, Dmitri, by his first wife, and two, Ivan and Alexey, by his second. Fyodor Pavlovitch's first wife, Adelaida Ivanovna, belonged to a fairly rich and distinguished noble family, also landowners in our district, the Miusovs. How it came to pass that an heiress, who was also a beauty, and moreover one of those vigorous intelligent girls, so common in this generation, but sometimes also to be found in the last, could have married such a worthless, puny weakling, as we all called him, I won't attempt to explain.

I knew a young lady of the last "romantic" generation who after some years of an enigmatic passion for a gentleman, whom she might quite easily have married at any moment, invented insuperable obstacles to their union, and ended by throwing herself one stormy night into a rather deep and rapid river from a high bank, almost a precipice, and so perished, entirely to satisfy her own caprice, and to be like Shakespeare's Ophelia.

Indeed, if this precipice, a chosen and favourite spot of hers, had been less picturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, most likely the suicide would never have taken place. This is a fact, and probably there have been not a few similar instances in the last two or three generations. Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov's action was similarly, no doubt, an echo of other people's ideas, and was due to the irritation caused by lack of mental freedom.

She wanted, perhaps, to show her feminine independence, to override class distinctions and the despotism of her family. And a pliable imagination persuaded her, we must suppose, for a brief moment, that Fyodor Pavlovitch, in spite of his parasitic position, was one of the bold and ironical spirits of that progressive epoch, though he was, in fact, an ill-natured buffoon and nothing more. What gave the marriage piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement, and this greatly captivated Adelaida Ivanovna's fancy. Fyodor Pavlovitch's position at the time made him specially eager for any such enterprise, for he was passionately anxious to make a career in one way or another.

To attach himself to a good family and obtain a dowry was an alluring prospect. As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, either in the bride or in him, in spite of Adelaida Ivanovna's beauty. This was, perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who was always of a voluptuous temper, and ready to run after any petticoat on the slightest encouragement. She seems to have been the only woman who made no particular appeal to his senses.

Immediately after the elopement Adelaida Ivanovna discerned in a flash that she had no feeling for her husband but contempt. The marriage accordingly showed itself in its true colours with extraordinary rapidity. Although the family accepted the event pretty quickly and apportioned the runaway bride her dowry, the husband and wife began to lead a most disorderly life, and there were everlasting scenes between them. It was said that the young wife showed incomparably more generosity and dignity than Fyodor Pavlovitch, who, as is now known, got hold of all her money up to twenty five thousand roubles as soon as she received it, so that those thousands were lost to her forever.

The little village and the rather fine town house which formed part of her dowry he did his utmost for a long time to transfer to his name, by means of some deed of conveyance. He would probably have succeeded, merely from her moral fatigue and desire to get rid of him, and from the contempt and loathing he aroused by his persistent and shameless importunity.

 But, fortunately, Adelaida Ivanovna's family intervened and circumvented his greediness. It is known for a fact that frequent fights took place between the husband and wife, but rumour had it that Fyodor Pavlovitch did not beat his wife but was beaten by her, for she was a hot-tempered, bold, dark-browed, impatient woman, possessed of remarkable physical strength. Finally, she left the house and ran away from Fyodor Pavlovitch with a destitute divinity student, leaving Mitya, a child of three years old, in her husband's hands.

Immediately Fyodor Pavlovitch introduced a regular harem into the house, and abandoned himself to orgies of drunkenness. In the intervals he used to drive all over the province, complaining tearfully to each and all of Adelaida Ivanovna's having left him, going into details too disgraceful for a husband to mention in regard to his own married life. What seemed to gratify him and flatter his self-love most was to play the ridiculous part of the injured husband, and to parade his woes with embellishments.

"One would think that you'd got a promotion, Fyodor Pavlovitch, you seem so pleased in spite of your sorrow," scoffers said to him. Many even added that he was glad of a new comic part in which to play the buffoon, and that it was simply to make it funnier that he pretended to be unaware of his ludicrous position. But, who knows, it may have been simplicity. At last he succeeded in getting on the track of his runaway wife. The poor woman turned out to be in Petersburg, where she had gone with her divinity student, and where she had thrown herself into a life of complete emancipation.

 Fyodor Pavlovitch at once began bustling about, making preparations to go to Petersburg, with what object he could not himself have said. He would perhaps have really gone; but having determined to do so he felt at once entitled to fortify himself for the journey by another bout of reckless drinking. And just at that time his wife's family received the news of her death in Petersburg. She had died quite suddenly in a garret, according to one story, of typhus, or as another version had it, of starvation.

Fyodor Pavlovitch was drunk when he heard of his wife's death, and the story is that he ran out into the street and began shouting with joy, raising his hands to Heaven: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," but others say he wept without restraint like a little child, so much so that people were sorry for him, in spite of the repulsion he inspired. It is quite possible that both versions were true, that he rejoiced at his release, and at the same time wept for her who released him. As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.

My challenge to you is to read a Russian author this month. I've already read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and was absolutely blown away by how good it was.  If you haven't read it yet, be sure to check it out.

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you have multiple reviews, then type in (multi) after your name and link to your general blog url.

If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.