Friday, December 28, 2012

Historical Fiction: 16th Century England

I am reading The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau set in 16th century England.  The Matthew Shardlake historical fiction series written by C. J. Sansom cover this same period.  Whereas Sansom's first book in the series and our book club selection, Dissolution,  took us into a monastery; The Crown takes us inside a nunnery.  The narrator is Joanna, 27 years old, a novice of the Dominican Order at the Dartford Priory, a former lady in waiting to Queen Katherine; King Henry V111's first wife, cousin of King Henry himself, and a member of the nobility; of the Stafford clan.  The book opens with Joanna leaving the convent, without permission, to be with her cousin Margaret Bulmer at her death; actually her burning to death.  Margaret was accused of  high treason and the specific time period is very much like Sovereign by C. J. Sansom.  The historical figures mentioned to establish the historical setting are Anne Boleyn who is about to give birth, Sir Richard Rich, Thomas Cranmer and also Robert Aske, leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace; an uprising in York.

Joanna's challenge is to find the former King Athelstan's crown which is supposed to be hidden in the Dartford Priory and get word secretly to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, advisor to King Henry V111  in exchange for her father's safety.  So far this is not a thriller like the books in the Matthew Shardlake series but it is very interesting with a lot of historical details about the Kings of England.

Top 10 Book Club Selections

What were the top 10 books selected by book clubs this year? Goodreads has an Infographic for this.  I can't believe that our book club has not read even one on the list.  I started reading Wild on my own and never finished. It just never held my interest. There is a mix of books on the list. According to amazon,  Gone Girl is a thriller. J. K. Rowling's book, Casual Vacancy is described by one amazon reviewer as a book you either love or hate; brilliant, disturbing and not for everyone.  Insurgent is for the Young Adult and falls in the category of dystopic fiction. It's the second book of a trilogy in the Divergent series and is set in Chicago.  Quite a mixture!

Take another look at the Okefenokee Book Club selections for 2012.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Best of 2012 in Books & Movies

I have been surfing twitter this morning to find the best books for 2012.   So far I have been directed to ten highly recommended Business Books for 2012.  I have also been directed to a  link to the Top Ten Films for 2012.  Les Miserables, based on our previous book club pick, and Lincoln are among the top ten.  I found a link to Brain Pickings and its 2012 Best-of Reading Lists covering different genres.

I searched the Goodreads website and found that Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling topped the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction for 2012 and Light Between Oceans, set in Australia, was the top pick for the Best Historical Fiction.

By the way, allow me to move away from books and movies for a second. I am sure you would not be surprised to see the top Ten Twitter Trends:  The Olympics, The Elections, Justin Bieber take the lead.

If you are looking forward to the new year, I found  a list of 13 Must Read Books to kick start 2013.  However, if you really think the world will end on December 21, 2012, feel free to  scan the heavens for any sign of the apocalypse. 

Let me lead briefly into the book I am now reading.  I am enjoying the historical fiction, Revelation by C. J. Sansom, which indicates that the fear of doomsday goes way back. It was an obsession in the sixteenth century. People so feared going to hell that it led to insanity.  The protagonist, Matthew Shardlake suspects that some bizarre murders taking place in London are linked to the Book of Revelation and possibly to a former monk who has knowledge of a drug called dwale.  I am on page 210 and there have been three murders so far.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What have you been reading this week-end?

I bought this ebook yesterday and read it within the day, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative.  I loved it. I found it inspirational. There is nothing wrong with stealing ideas and crediting them or stealing ideas and transforming them. Those are all good and completely different from plagiarizing which, of course, is bad. This book has given me some ideas.  I just have to put them in action.

I have also started reading the fourth book in the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom, Revelation.  I have not reached very far but it sounds as if this is going to have more about the religious conflict that was prevalent during King Henry V111's reign; the reformers versus the traditional Papists.  The setting is London and the time frame is 1543, 6 years after the events of the first book,  Dissolution,which we read for a past book club discussion.  King Henry is courting wife number 6. Barak and his wife Tamasin and also Guy are recurring characters from the previous books in the series.   In this story, Guy is allowed to practice as a Physician, in the last book his race was a deterrent in his being allowed to practice.  Madness, possibly from religious guilt, seems to be one of the themes in this story. I am on page 74 and a murder has already taken place.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Culture of Creativity

I came across this list of ebooks on creativity.  This one titled, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod, reminded me of a video from the Jamaica Gleaner of a man who created what he calls a "ground plane" when everyone including his wife thought he had lost his mind.  He ignored everybody and kept on creating. Video.   One reviewer on amazon said this is one thing he or she learned from the book, the more original your idea the less good advice you will receive.  This morning I read this quick guide to licensing your ideas. Did you know that before filing for a patent, you can file for a PPA for $125 to protect your idea for 12 months?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Parallels in Winter of the World by Ken Follett

I am almost at the end of Winter of the World by Ken Follett.  I really liked the parallels in the stories of the families. This is mainly about the next generation of the families first introduced to us in Fall of Giants. Greg Peshkov in the American family and Lloyd Williams from the Welsh family were both children born outside of marriage.  The difference was that Greg always knew his real Dad but Lloyd did not.  Lloyd Williams from the Welsh family and  Volodya Peshkov from the Russian family had wonderful stepfathers and did not know their biological brothers until adulthood.  The discovery of who their real Dad was came as a shock. Daisy Peshkov from the American family and Katerina Peshkov from the Russian family fell in love with the wrong brother at first but made the right choice later on in life.  Woody Dewar from America, Werner Franck from Germany, and Volodya from Russia experienced unrequited love. They found the love of their lives then seemed to lose them and then won them back again. 

I liked how the stories had different voices, the second generation voices.  Looking forward  to the third book in the Century trilogy and the third generation voices.

Friday, December 07, 2012

December 7th: 71st Anniversary of Attack on Pearl Harbor

It's December 7th, the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I am a reading  Winter of the World , the bestseller by Ken Follett, and coincidentally today I reached the section that deals with Pearl Harbor.   The story before, during, and after the attack is extremely informative and full of drama.  As you probably know, this is the second book of a trilogy and covers the lives of families in Russia, Germany, Wales, England, and America and how their lives are connected through love, marriage and war. The section on Pearl Harbor focuses on the Dewar family in America.  It is very hard to write a review of this book.  I am getting some lessons in history that I never knew.  So far  there is not much emphasis on the Jewish holocaust in the section dealing with the Nazi Germany.   The cruelty of the Nazis is emphasized and there is a story about the Nazis murdering the disabled.  Lots of unrequited love and political intrigue going on in this book.   I wish there were not so many characters for me to keep track of but the stories of how the characters lives intertwine are very fascinating.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Creating a Small Business

Everyone these days know someone who is, was, or will be job hunting.  How about starting your own business? I took a break from fiction to start reading, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future.   It's about combining your passion with something useful in the world.  The author Chris Guillebeau says this book has two themes: freedom and value meaning that all people want is freedom and providing value is the way to get it.  To write this book he looked at 1,500 respondents online and offline who started micro-businesses and who met at least 6 of his criteria: The "follow-your-passion" model, low startup costs, minimum of $50,000 in net income, no special skills other than on the job training,  willing to discuss their business income and expenses, and fewer than 5 employees. 

Interestingly, this writer says not everyone can build a business around his or her passion, the focus has to be on providing value, making sure the product or service will help other people. On page 18 he outlined the 3 simple things needed to start a business:  

1. Product or service 2. Customers  3. A way to get paid

By page 35 there were 6 steps to get started: 1. Decide on product or service 2. Set up a website ( free at 3. Develop an offer 4. Ensure you have a way to get paid (PayPal) 5. Announce your offer to the world 6. Learn from steps 1-5, then repeat.

He also makes a very important point to help us think about the product or service that we want to sell.  Hone in on what people want.  We all want more love, money, acceptance/attention, and free time and we want less stress, conflict, hassle and uncertainty/debt.

Here is another interesting book title that seems to be similar to The $100 Startup, Mash-Up! How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier, by Ian Sanders and David Sloly. This book is supposed to show you how to  mash-up your skill set to create the work life you want.

Also useful to help you decide on  a product or service for a small business is this article by Alexa Hirschfield who posed these useful questions:

1. Does this business have a reason for being? 2. Does it already exist? 3. If not, why not? 4. Is there a customer for this? 4. If so, who are they, how many of them are there, and how do we know?

Bringing it all together is Guillebeau's one page business plan found on Life Hacker.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Matthew Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom

I was introduced to the historical fiction writer C. J. Sansom by my book club.  We started off with the first book in the Matthew Shardlake Mystery series, Dissolution.  I have continued on to the second and third books and I am now waiting for the fourth book, Revelation, through the wonderful Inter-library Loan service at my library. I keep reading because I like the main character and narrator, Matthew Shardlake, a sharp thinking hunchback lawyer. He is not a typical hero physically or otherwise.  He has his character flaws - jealousy, a bit of a superiority complex as befits his status in the "classist" society of the time, and he's even cowardly. Yet, he is a man of integrity with a passion for truth and justice also he wants to help poor people who have no voice.  I love the history lessons wrapped up in murder mysteries in these series by Sansom who has a PhD. in history.  He paints a picture of this sixteenth century Tudor period as brutal and elitist without fairness and justice.

I think that Sovereign had a lot more unexpected twists to the story than the first two books.  The pace of the story was a little slow at times. It picked up again (*spoiler alert) when Matthew is detained and taken to the Tower of London to be tortured. My favorite in the series is still the first one, Dissolution.   I am hoping that the characters Barak and Tamasin continue into the fourth book.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sovereign, Matthew Shardlake series

Happy Thanksgiving all! Find some time to relax and dream, pick up a book. 

I have put Ken Follett's book down and taken up C.J. Sansom's Sovereign.  The setting is the time of the Great Progress in 1541 when King Henry VIII is showing his power to the rough and rebellious northern sections of England where the people are still papists and are considered barbarians.  People in the north ard different, even their dialect is different. The "Great Progress" historically is after a great northern rebellion against the King, called the Yorkshire Uprising or the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.  This is a time when Lord Thomas Cromwell has been executed for treason and Henry has moved on to wife number 5, Catherine Howard.  

I am only on page 40 and some of the same enemies of our narrator, Matthew Shardlake, introduced to us in Dark Fire are  mentioned in this third book in the mystery series, Sir Richard Rich, Stephen Bealknap, and the Duke of Norfolk.  Bealknap seems to be a fictional character unlike the other two. There is a new character in this novel, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.  He was a friend of Cromwell's and an activist reformer who had renounced the Pope and performed the wedding ceremony of the King to Anne Boleyn. Shardlake finds himself once again having to take on a job he does not like for another Thomas, the said Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer has charged Shardlake, known for his discretion, and his assistant Barak to go to the north of England to ensure that a prisoner and rebel, Broderick, reaches the Tower of London safe and healthy, ironically, so that they can torture him  into revealing certain secrets.  Shardlake, who specializes in property law, is also in the north of England doing arbitration work with a senior lawyer. 

So far there are no dead bodies, no mystery for Shardlake to solve.  I have been captivated by this series since the club selected the first book for the book club discussion this month.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Historical Fiction Fan

I'm all finished with Dark Fire; a very satisfying ending.  I would give this second book in the Matthew Shardlake Mystery series 4 of 5 stars. I got impatient.  I thought the search for the truth about the formula for Dark Fire, also known as Greek Fire, was going on and on.  I was anxious to get to the resolution. I think that Dissolution was the better book though I see some reviewers disagree with me.  The Tudor period has become trendy now so I  have requested the third book from the Inter-library Loan service, Sovereign . This third book is supposed to be as good as or better than the first two books, or so I read on amazon.  I will find out all about  The Great Progress in British history and what new murder mysteries Shardlake and Barak have to solve.   The fourth book in the series is Revelation.   The fifth is Heartstone

While I wait for Sovereign to arrive, I am about to start Ken Follett's 940 page historical fiction,  Winter of the World, Book 2 of The Century Trilogy.  This book starts off in Germany in 1933.  It picks up where it left off in Fall of Giants which I read last July.  I will once again follow five inter-related families in America, Germany, Russia, England, Wales.  It's been a while.  I don't remember the characters.  According to what I wrote last year, the most likeable characters were the Welsh family, Ethel and Billy Williams specifically, and also the Russian Grigori so I look forward to reading this book. I am a fan of historical fiction.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Historical Fiction

If you ever decide to read historical fiction by C. J. Sansom, you need to read this revealing article  about him.    Surprisingly, he does not like the BBC dramatization of The Tudors. Also, I like this Carla Nayland Historical Fiction blog, it has a very good review of Dissolution, our book club pick.  She points out that the narrator and main character,Matthew Shardlake, is flawed.  He not only has a physical deformity, his character is not perfect.  He is a seeker of truth and justice and he is also a man of his time very conscious and accepting of the class distinctions in his society.   In terms of class, we see his reaction to Mark and Alice in the first book and his initial reaction to his assistant/body guard, Barak, in the second book.

I am still reading the second book in the Matthew Shardlake series, Dark Fire.   I think Sansom has been successful in portraying the 'worldview' at the time for his readers.  He captures Matthew's painful spasms, fears, uncertainties, class prejudices and  his experiences of rejection by women to whom he is attracted and superstition about his hunchback.  I am on page 372 and Elizabeth is sick in prison.  Guy is trying to cure her of her fever.  Elizabeth is speaking a little but in riddles, no one understands what she really means. Matthew is about to deceive Barak and in effect Lord Cromwell by allowing Guy to test a black liquid known as Dark Fire.  Very interesting.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

I am on page 169 of Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom, an historical crime fiction.  The atmosphere in London in 1540, during the reign of King Henry V111, is one of fear, superstition, political and religious intrigue.   For several pages the writer's focus has been on finding the stolen formula for Greek Fire also known as Dark Fire, a flaming weapon of mass destruction that even burns in water, used by the Byzantine Empire.  The part of the story that really fascinates me is the alleged teen aged murderer, Elizabeth.  On page 157, the writer returns the focus to Elizabeth. Matthew Shardlake, Elizabeth's lawyer who is also the narrator of the story, is visiting Elizabeth's family to find out what really happened. One uncle portrays Elizabeth as bookish, a loner with an independent spirit and merry before she moved in with her extended family.  The other uncle portrays Elizabeth as a malapert, disobedient, and violent.  So did Elizabeth commit murder because she was jealous of her cousins or is she crazy? Or is she innocent? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dark Fire, Greek Fire

I have started reading Dark Fire, the second book in the Matthew Shardlake series.  You may remember the first book, Dissolution, was our book club selection for November 2012.  I so enjoyed the first book that I had to get this second in the series. In 2005, the author C. J. Sansom, won an award for this novel; the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.

The setting is London in 1540.  King Henry V111 is on the throne for 31 years.  I am on page 91. There is an atmosphere of fear and intrigue in this period of history. Lord Cromwell is still the right hand man for the King but he fears the King.  Cromwell's fear is based on the anticipation of the fallout from the King's failing marriage. Cromwell had advised the King to marry a Princess from Germany, Anne of Cleves, but she is unattractive and has bad body odor.  Everyone seems to know that the King is flirting with a teenaged Katherine Howard.  Cromwell anticipates that the King may make this girl his fifth wife and the Howard family will become influential.  The family would encourage the King to bring back Catholicism to England and thus wipe out the gains made by the reformists.  Cromwell's deep seated fear is that the Howard family will get rid of him.

Matthew, the narrator, is disillusioned by religion in general and the reformists in particular and he fears Cromwell.  He is a lawyer working on a very strange criminal case involving the murder of a male child by his 18 year old female cousin, Elizabeth Wentworth. Elizabeth refuses to talk and he wants to plead insanity on her behalf but the Judge seems hell bent on torturing the teenager to death. 

Lo and behold, Matthew gets a reprieve that will give him time to investigate this murder. He finds out that the reprieve is thanks to Lord Cromwell.  Cromwell has given Matthew the mission of  finding a stolen formula for a weapon of mass destruction called Greek Fire.  Matthew is to be assisted by Jack Barak who seems to be Cromwell's "muscle".  Matthew suspects that Barak's real mission is to keep an eye on him because Cromwell trusts no one.

Guy Malton, the dark-skinned monk who we met in the first book in the series, Dissolution, is also a character in this book. He is an apothecary, what we now call a pharmacist, and a friend of Matthew.

Yes, this is a fascinating period of history and the mystery is about to get very intriguing as Matthew uses diplomacy and observation to investigate all the characters that may be behind the missing formula for Greek Fire.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Okefenokee Book Club Selections for 2012

These were our book club selections for the year.  My favorites were those books selected for February, June, July, October and November.

February 17

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

March 16

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

April 20

The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

May 18

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

June 15

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

July 20

Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

August 17

Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour

September 21

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

October 19

The Hangman’s Daughter by Olilver Potzsch

November 16

Dissolution by C. J. Sansom

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Guest of Honor by Deborah Davis

On page 242 of Guest of Honor, we learn that Lulu Hadley, a white chambermaid, wrote a letter to the editor of Philadelphia North American  saying that the Negro was "a brute, ready to kill you when your back is turned."  She felt that Booker T. Washington was an uppity Negro who should know how to "stay in his place"  and that President Roosevelt should have been impeached.  This is just one example of the backlash as a result of the press reporting that President Roosevelt had dinner with his African American guest, Booker T. Washington, at the White House.

Surprisingly, despite the smear campaigns leading up to the elections of 1904 and the racist sentiments expressed, Roosevelt won a second term as President of the United States.  Roosevelt to his credit continued to discreetly consult with Booker T. about issues relating to African Americans in the South.

I am on page 255 on a chapter titled, Blindsided.  Here is some interesting information in light of today, election day.  Although big business had financed Roosevelt's campaign, big business was one of his targets for reform.  I am also learning in this chapter about the hostility between W.E. Dubois and Booker T. and how Dubois challenged Booker T.'s influence in the black community.  I am finding this bit of history as written by Deborah Davis fascinating. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Big Stink - Guest of Honor

"A Big Stink" is the Chapter title on page 203 of Guest of Honor by Deborah Davis.  Booker T. Washington was the guest of honor at a White House dinner hosted by Theodore Roosevelt on October 16, 1901.  The following day the Washington Post  had one line mentioning the event.  The Atlanta Constitution mentioned 4 important facts.  Firstly, the President had Booker T. at the White House for dinner.  Secondly, all the Roosevelt family was present at the table. Thirdly, Booker T. was in evening dress.  Finally, Booker T. was the first Negro ever entertained at the White House.

By October 17th, the language of the press in the South had changed for the worse. Concerns about miscegenation and the "Negro Aspiration" dominated in the South.   "....this is white man's country. President Roosevelt has committed a blunder that is worse than a crime." Roosevelt, in the minds of the Southerners, had subjected his womenfolk to the indignity of dining at the same table as a man of color. He had undermined family values in America merely by dining with Booker T.

Booker T.'s work as a respected educator was supposedly undone.  He was ridiculed and the negative language extended to Booker T's eldest daughter and the Roosevelt children.   This bit on the President's children reminded me of the big stink made in 2009 about an 11 year old Malia Obama wearing a simple T-shirt with a peace sign.

Even the black newspapers portrayed the dinner in a negative way.  The Charleston Messenger chastised Booker T. claiming that race relations in the South were wonderful before Booker T. came along and messed things up by accepting the dinner invitation.

The post dinner discussion even spread to Europe.  I am on page 217 and I am enjoying this fascinating period of social history as presented by Deborah Davis.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Dear Mr. President (Roosevelt, that is)

"Can a dinner change history?" That's the first sentence in the introduction to the book, Guest of Honor by Deborah Davis. This is about a dinner at the White House that shocked the nation.  It was hosted by President Theodore Roosevelt with Booker T. Washington as guest of honor on October 16, 1901.  Why was it shocking? Well this was because Booker T. was a man of color. Up to this point in history, no black man had ever been invited to have dinner at the White House so even Booker T. was shocked by the invitation.

The parallel lives of these two men is what this book is about. Two different races, two different social backgrounds yet they developed a special relationship.  I am on page 188.  Theodore Roosevelt wanted to combine business and pleasure so he extended the "scandalous" dinner invitation.  Booker T. would normally turn down social invitations of this kind to avoid crossing the color line. However this time, on his Tuskegee stationery, Booker T. accepted the invitation with the salutation, "My Dear Mr. President."

The book covers social history in a very interesting way, showing us life in the 19th to early 20th centuries.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

What are you reading?

I have just finished reading the historical fiction and murder mystery, Dissolution by C.J. Samson.  I would give this 4.5 stars.  I enjoyed the writing and learning about this period in history, the Reformation.  Dissolution is about dissolving the old way of life and making way for the new.  Unfortunately, some of the deceit and cruelty of the old way of life carried over into the new life. Historically, the Dissolution of the Monasteries was a time when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries initially by forcing the monks to surrender the monasteries and later by encouraging the monks to voluntarily surrender the monasteries to the king .  The monasteries were considered places of deceit, idolatry, and fraud.  Thomas Cromwell, the King's chief secretary and vice general was determined to tear down the buildings, destroy the relics, and seize the land and give it to his cronies.  We will be discussing this book at our book club meeting this month.  This is a reading guide that we use.

I have two books I want to read next. I enjoyed the hunchbacked astute lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, and would like to read the next book in the series, Dark Fire.  However, I also want to read the latest Louise Penny murder mystery, The Beautiful Mystery, and coincidentally the setting for that novel is a monastery in Canada.  The monks in Dissolution were Benedictine monks and in Penny's story they are Gilbertine monks founded by St. Gilbert. My reading list is getting longer and longer.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dissolution by C. J. Sansom

The setting of Dissolution by C.J. Sansom is a monastery named St. Donatus located in the south east of London in 1537, a time when the country was divided between those loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and those loyal to King Henry V111 and the Reformation.  Matthew Shardlake, the protagonist, is an astute lawyer who is very conscious of his deformity, a hunched back. He believes in reformation but he does not like his boss, Thomas Cromwell.  He was sent by Thomas Cromwell to quietly and discreetly investigate the murder of a Commissioner at the monastery. The Commissioner was stationed at St. Donatus for the purpose of checking out any irregularities, sexual or otherwise, at the monastery.  Naturally, the monks are suspects in his murder but the monks suggest outsiders are to be blamed; smugglers or practitioners of witchcraft.  Shardlake is sent to investigate with only one assistant, young Mark Poer.  

I am on page 180.  So far I am finding the characters at the monastery very interesting. The ones who stand out are the black healer, referred to as an infirmarian, named Brother Guy; Alice, the 22 year old Aide who works in the infirmary; and Brother Gabriel; the librarian and musician who seems to be attracted to Mark.   Brother Guy is referred to as the black goblin by the prejudiced townspeople. In general, the monks who have a monopoly on the brewing of beer, are not liked by the people in the town. For one thing, their beer is filthy with hens dropping dung in the beer. At this point in the story.  Shardlake suspects that the Commissioner may have found some accounting irregularities at the monastery which could be a motive for his murder.

The other books in the series are Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation, Heartstone.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012: The Power of We

Blog Action Day (BAD) started in 2007.  BAD has turned out to be very effective in bringing bloggers together from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day. Past topics have included water, climate change, and poverty.  Food was last year's theme, that's when I first participated.  Today, October 15th, the theme is the Power of We, a celebration of people working together

I am participating in this Blog Action Day to ensure that more and more people will know about the work of this particular organization with regard to the health of women and children.   This is one international body not afraid to reach out to ELIMINATE Maternal/Neonatal  Tetanus (MNT) in Third World countries; it's The Kiwanis Club working with UNICEF

Have you noticed how fearful some people are about the Power of WE?  Why?  Is it that some people are all about the "ME" and so they fear the awesome Power of "WE"?  The irony is that WE have the power to do great things together and at the same time it takes only ONE to step forward.  WE can end poverty, WE can stop stop criminality and end violence, WE can advocate for healthy children.  Only ONE is needed to speak up and get things going.

6 Things to Do:
  1. Make a pledge to become an agent of Change in your community.
  2. Educate yourself about the issues.
  3. Read about Collaboration.  This, after all, is a book blog: Power of WE: Succeeding Through Partnerships,  Collaboration,  Collaborate: The Art of We
  4. Keep current by reading the Kiwanis/Eliminate Blog
  5. Volunteer time, money, expertise for a worthy cause.
  6.  *Speak up about children's health issues!
*If you have issues speaking up, here is another international organization that will help you.  Learn to speak up or hone your communication and leadership skills in a fun and supportive group environment, Toastmasters International.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Man Booker Prize 2012: 6 Finalists

Six books, six authors shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year. Apparently this year, the judges have passed over some well known favorites and chosen a new generation of writers which include four first-time novelists.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hangman's Daughter series

I have finished reading The Dark Monk.  This story reminded me of some of Dan Brown's thriller fictions with the Christian icons, the clues to be solved, a little history, a little mythology, and some crooked monks.   Just as Brown's readers actually visit the Italian sites mentioned in Angels and Demons, the writer seems to be expecting that his readers will be visiting some of  the Bavarian sites mentioned in the story and so he has provided a guide to the sites at the end of the novel.

Also, at the end of the story we get to know a more about the writer Oliver Potzsch and a little bit about the real Jakob Kuisl, the Schongau Hangman and also the writer's ancestor.   Interestingly, there are 14 executioners in Potzsch's family tree. 

There is also a preview of the third book in the series, The Beggar King.  The romance between Magdalena, the Hangman's daughter and Simon the Physician Assistant is moving right along in the first few pages.

I am moving on to another historical fiction, Dissolution by C.J. Samson, our book club pick for November, set in 16th century England.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

October Reads

Suggestions for October reading from Oprah's website.  The list includes several non-fiction titles.  There is  Life After Death by Damien Echols, one of the "West Memphis Three".  Also, The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace By Lynn Povich, a story of 36 staff  members, including the writer, who filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in 1970.

Friday, October 05, 2012

I am reading Dark Monk

I am on page 179 of The Dark Monk: a Hangman's Daughter's Tale,  set in 17th century Bavaria. A Knight Templar Master, Friedrich Wildgraf, has hidden a great treasure, possibly large enough to finance wars in Europe.  The Templars wanted to ensure only Christians would find the treasure so there are riddles to be solved, with Biblical vocabulary, and they are planted in various locations.  One was found in a church crypt, another at a basilica, and one more at the ruins of a castle   One of the major characters, Physician Assistant Simon, says the riddle he found at the castle is a prayer and on page 179 it puzzles him that the word TREE, in the prayer/riddle, is capitalized.

In the meantime a priest has been murdered.  The hangman's daughter, Magdalena, has gone shopping for herbs in another town.  The hangman, Kuisl and a group of his fellow citizens have gone out to capture some bandits, The Scheller Gang, who have been ambushing and murdering traders and citizens traveling to and from their town.   The vigilante group led by the hangman seems to have gotten out of hand.  To the disgust of the hangman, women and children were killed.

The first book in the series, The Hangman's Daughter, is our book club pick this month.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Historical Fiction by Oliver Potzsch

I finished reading The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, set in 17th century Bavaria, a few weeks ago and recommended it as our book club pick for October.  In this story hangman Jakob Kuisl; his daughter Magdalena; and Simon,a Physician's Assistant; try to solve the mystery of a murdered child and to vindicate the midwife accused of murdering the child and practicing witchcraft.  It turns out that this historical fiction is the first of 4 books by Potzsch, a descendant of the Kuisl family.

I have moved on to the second book, The Dark Monk.  I am on page 71.  In this story the hangman, Simon and Magdalena are taking an interest in a priest who was poisoned in the city of Altenstadt.   Simon and Magdalena had a romantic relationship in Book 1 and in Book 2 jealousy is raising its ugly head as Simon seems to have an interest in the dead priest's wealthy sister, Benedikta.  However on page 71, the hangman's attention has to be directed from the mystery of the priest to other matters. He has been assigned the job of leader of a 17th century Bavarian version of  a posse.  He and the townsmen are supposed to hunt down some bandits who have been attacking their city of Schongau.

The Knight Templars is mentioned in this novel.  The church where the dead priest was found was once the headquarters of the Knight Templars; a band of religious zealots with headquarters across Europe originally assigned to guide travelers safely to Israel. The Knights have been mentioned in several novels lately.  I know I read a Steve Berry book about them, Templar Legacy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Watch a Novel

I heard you dear reader saying, "Yeah right, how do you watch a novel?  Well, read this very interesting article titled, "Watch a novel being written live."  It is about a new trend in writing novels.  Specifically, it is about a project called The Naked Writer  which was launched on September 12th by British fantasy writer Silvia Hartman.  Hartman invited fans to watch her write her novel, "The Dragon Lords" using Google Docs via her social networks.

Also interesting was this storyteller, Willy Shyr, who had a "crowdsourced" novel published by an Australian newspaper titled, The Necklace.  He invited readers to participate in the actual writing of the novel by submitting their own sentences.  We live in a connected world dear reader.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Blog Action Day - October 15th

Blog Action Day (BAD) is almost here.  It's October 15th and the theme is really different this year it is, The Power of  We.  This means BAD12 is celebrating people working together to make a positive difference in the world.  BAD12 is asking bloggers to focus on celebrating people from their community or people half way around the world that they may never meet. 

Who will I celebrate in my blog on October 15th?  Librarians who make a difference in their patrons' lives researching jobs, helping with resumes and cover letters? The Toastmasters club in this community which makes a difference by building self confidence and personal development?  Kiwanis Clubs who are striving to make a difference with Eliminate project?

Jay-Z's Top 6 Picks

Want to read what Jay-Z has been reading?  Here are the rapper's top 6 personal development books.  Notice he included one of our past book club picks, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a fiction book with profound ancient wisdom.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Learning From Louis L'Amour

Our book club choice this month is Education of a Wandering Man by Louis l'Amour, writer of 84 novels  Many of his  novels have been transformed to the big screen.  Lots of lessons to be learned from this writer.

He believes in historical accuracy. He says we should not have to second guess history because the facts are fantastic enough.  Because he believes in historical accuracy,  he read books about other cultures and traveled to the places he wrote about.  He wrote without using any obscenities and without spicing it up with sex scenes.

He describes himself, in this book, as a writer of the frontier, not a western writer, and  says his stories are about passing through or settling wild country.  He obviously admired the western pioneers because they chose to leave everything behind, break  the mold and start afresh in a new country with new problems. They did what L'Amour did,  moved from home and faced one challenge after another.  Man, he says. seeks a means to exist and is always striving to improve his situation. At the time of writing this memoir, he had an interest in the frontiers of outer space. His novel Walking Drum, he says, was about the frontiers of knowledge. 

I like this quote on page 156, "Education is everywhere, prompting one to think, to consider, to remember."  Interestingly, L'Amour felt he had acquired a lot of knowledge about Indonesia, Malaysia and China  and wanted a job in Naval Intelligence, unfortunately, he was turned down because he had no college degree.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Japanese writer: Keigo Higashino

I stayed up all night to read the Japanese novel, Naoko by  Keigo Higashino.  It was quite fascinating; held my interest from beginning to end. I came across this writer because his other book, Devotion of Suspect X  was our book club pick last month.   This novel touched on the supernatural.  The protagonist's wife, Naoko, and daughter, Monami, were involved in a bus crash.  Heisuke thought he had lost his wife but found out that her spirit was occupying his daughter's body.  He then realized that in fact he had lost his only daughter.  Yes, a little confusing and a very creepy situation.  Interestingly, there is a name for  a situation like this  metempsychosis.  The whole story was about Naoko and Heisuke maneuvering through life; elementary school, puberty, junior high and high school; while keeping this huge secret.  There was a very unusual twist to the plot towards the end.  I have watched movies about people switching bodies but this concept of  occupying a dead person's body was different.  I understand there is actually a movie based on this book.

I did not like the reaction of Heisuke in the end. It was too similar to the reaction of one of the protagonist's at the end of Devotion to Suspect X.   I also didn't like that there was no resolution for Heisuke after so many years of living life with this secret.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Happening at the Jacksonville Public Library

Here is what's happening at the Jacksonville Public Library:  Budget cuts.  I am sure you are not surprised by this move by Mayor Alvin Brown to save money.  True, budget cuts are happening all over but here is what you can do to show support for the library.  Also, check out the library advocacy blog.  Every little bit helps.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

August Book Club Selection - Education of a Wandering Man

I have only read one Louis l'Amour novel, The Last of the Breed, and it is one of my favorite reads.  It was not the usual western and I read it years ago because it was our book club selection.   For August, our book club pick is Education of a Wandering Man, a memoir by Louis L'Amour, and I am loving it.  At least one other person in the book club got bored with it; not enough action. 

Pages 84 to 87 express the essence of this memoir.  On these pages Louis L'Amour, a high school drop-out, explains how he educated himself through travel, adventure, and reading and became a well known writer.  This book was published in 1989 and on page 84 L'Amour says the present approach to education is all wrong; it is pedestrian. He says we educate children to have opinions but we should be educating them to think.  He explains his love for reading throughout the book, and on page 86 he tells us why he loves to read diaries and memoirs. It is because he wants to know how people were living, what they were thinking and how they expressed themselves.  Throughout the memoir he recommends several books; fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  

His path to becoming a writer started with reading, listening to people's stories then writing.  He wrote and sold two line jokes, jingles, poetry, nature pieces.  I am loving his story.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Want to be a Storyteller?

I like this link to a cheat sheet for storytelling.  Also, if you want to write a book, check this link out 7 Steps to writing a book.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Page Turners

I found a link to 6 page turners for summer reading on Oprah's website.       The blurb on the 6th book, Drowned by Therese Bohman, reminded me of the book that kept me up until 2:00 this morning. The Boy in the Suitcase by Danish writers,  Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, was a really exciting thriller set in Denmark and Lithuania.  The kidnapping of a three year old boy turns his mom into a mama grizzly and she sets off from Lithuania to Denmark to track down her boy.   Her path crosses with Nina, a Danish nurse, who lives to rescue young women and children.  So dear readers that's the seventh book I would add to this summer reading list.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Mish Mash from Brain Pickings

My post today is not just about books.  Today I share a mish mash of links.  I think you will enjoy these three interesting ones I found on Brain Pickings :

1. A graphic novel about the life of physicist Richard Feynman 

2. A crowdsourced  Complaints Choir putting into song all the daily grievances of the world in Finnish with English subtitles.

3. A documentary on the life of one of the greatest jazz musicians of all times ... Louis Armstrong.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Reading the Hunger Games

I just finished the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire, and started the third book, Mockingjay.  As anticipated, there is a spirit of rebellion in the Divisions because of Katniss' act of defiance at the Hunger Games that took place in book 1.  Even though there are unexpected twists and turns in books 2 and 3, they did not hold my interest as much as book 1.  Without giving away too much, I am going to just say that I did not like that the writer took us back into the arena for yet another Hunger Games in book 2.  In book 3, the Capitol strikes back at the revolutionaries and there is outright rebellion with Katniss as the symbolic Mockingjay.   The story is not exciting but I am sticking to it because of the love triangle: Gale, Katniss and Peeta.  Who will Katniss choose? Also, it is clear that Katniss is not comfortable with the leadership of the rebellion.  Will she have to defy the Capitol and the rebel government in Division 13?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

A list of Personal Finance Books

This is a really cool list of personal finance books to add to your personal collection or for those of us who plan to get rich slowly. Get Rich Slowly is actually the attention grabbing title of this website. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What are you reading?

I am sharing two links with you dear readers. First, I read a very shocking book over the week-end. It was a story about a southern family, about lust and about fighting big industry, in this case the cotton mill industry. What was shocking was that the book, with its sexual overtones and religious undertones, was first published in the 1930s. The story had the innocent title of God's Little Acre by southern writer, Erskine Caldwell.  By checking Amazon, I found out that there is a movie version for this book.

I found this second link in my Inbox.  It's a link to books that will guide you if you are seeking a life of positivity.  Take advantage of the opportunity to buy any book from the list before June 29th  and you could get a free positivity plan by Jon Gordon

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Am I Reading Next?

What do I read next? My good friend has suggested these thrillers, "The Boy in the Suitcase" by Lene Kaaberbol and also "Snowman" and "Nemisis" by Jo Nesbo.   However The Devotion of Suspect X, by a Japanese writer, is July's Book club selection so that is on my list of books to read.   Tomorrow I will be traveling and I will be taking An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi with me to read in the long wait times.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Hunger Games

I have dropped everything to read The Hunger Games.  It is the first book in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  The first few pages just pulled me in. I could not put it down.  It's a very exciting dystopic fiction even with the gore and the sadness we readers feel as we read about children being sent to kill other children as sport. Their communities watch and listen in on them on television as if they were watching the TV show Survivor.   The 24 young children are brainwashed to think this is a good thing to represent their district by murdering each other to win a life of comfort meaning a house and regular meals.

Killing as entertainment is not such a fictitious scenario.  Think of  Rome.  Think of the coliseum.  We know adults fought each other or fought animals to their death as others watched the "entertainment". 

I am on page 376 and I can't wait to see how this turns out for Katniss and Peeta.  How do they survive and keep their humanity?  Peeta, the baker's son, has never been brainwashed.  Before the Games begin, he is intent on maintaining his naturally kind and loving self and on keeping Katniss safe. 

I am looking forward to reading all three books.  How are the starving struggling people in the Districts going to defeat the governing fat cats in the Capitol?  I hope I will find out in the end. Also, I am now looking forward to seeing how Hollywood transformed this on the big screen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Les Miserables - new movie

Well what do you know, there is a new movie coming out in December and it is based on our May book club selection ... Les Miserables!  

This is the movie trailer starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Vajean, the convict that became mayor, fugitive and devoted adopted Dad.  Also features Russell Crowe as Javert, a man following the law without any compassion.  

We did not enjoy the book at our book  club but the movie should be just as wonderful as the musical we saw in Jacksonville a few weeks ago.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What are you reading on Memorial Day?

Thanks to all you military personnel who risk your life every day.   A shout out to all my family members who have served over the years you know who you are.

I have been reading Defending Jacob.  Is the propensity to violence an inherited trait?  That is the issue in this book and so far I am enjoying it.  Hopefully, I will complete reading and begin the first book of the Hunger Games Trilogy.   

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lessons from Les Miserables

So we chose a difficult book this month, Les Miserables, which none of us could finish reading before our meeting last Friday.   There were too many irrelevant details in the book.  In fact I cheated.  I went to see the musical in Jacksonville and I borrowed the DVD from the library to get the storyline.  Imagine my surprise when this morning on twitter I came across a post with  this link   to Lessons from Jean Valjean, Jean Valjean being the main character in Les Mis. 

The main lesson in the book, I think, is compassion.  A bishop had compassion on Jean, a former convict, and Jean changed his life expressing compassion to everyone he met and in turn changed the lives of many.  The injustice in France at the time was highlighted.  Jean was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.   His question to the courts at the time is relevant today, it was something to this effect, "Don't you know what it's like to be hungry and not to be able find any work?"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Great Idea to Promote Reading

What a great idea to promote books and reading! The Seattle Public Library system will be hiding 1,000 books around town for young people to find, read, and re-hide for other young people.  The Theme for its annual Summer Reading Program is Century 22: Read the Future. Little Brother is one of the Young Adult books that will be hidden.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

7 Must Read Books on Happiness

This looks like an interesting site with recommended books on happiness.  I listened to the TED Talk by French Scientist turned Buddhist Monk, Matthieu Ricard.

Top 10 Most Read Books

Well, well, well, I am sure you guessed that The Twilight Saga  would be on the list and likewise The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter.

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night: I Am A Reading Ambassador Today

I am joining a whole host of Reading Ambassadors today and participating in World Book Night. We will be giving away books to promote a love of reading.  By the way, April 23rd is UNESCO International Day of the Book in honor of writers Cervantes and Shakespeare who both died on that date.  April 23, 1616 is also Shakespeare's birthday. 

Read the FAQ for World Book Night here.  Also, check out the benefits of reading according to this blogger, link here. 

I will be handing out a past book club favorite, The Glass Castle to students in southeast Georgia.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fanstasy Fiction: The Alchemyst

We discussed The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel at our book club meeting yesterday.   This is of the fantasy fiction genre so not everyone loved it. This is the first of 6 books in a series, published in 2007, by Irish writer Michael Scott.

The setting is San Francisco. All of the main characters are based on history or mythology. Dr. Dee walked into a bookshop with his goons and foul odor, attacked the owner Nicholas Flamel, and kidnapped his wife Perenelle. Nicholas and Perenelle are the guardians of The Book of Abraham and Dr. Dee was in the bookshop to steal it. Teenagers Sophie and Josh Newman try to help Nicholas and Perry fight off the bad guys and suddenly they find themselves caught up in a world of magic and myths and legends.  They meet humans who have lived for centuries without aging and a non-blood sucking vampire. They have had to flee with Nicholas and they have been followed by rats and later attacked by birds and cats.  They hid in a tree house in the shadow realm of an Elder.  They get help from a Witch with no eyes who can see the future.

I think I  can see the future too. I see a movie with an abundance of special effects coming out of this series.  It is fascinating to me that there really was a Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel in France, that they really did do charitable works and founded hospitals and schools, and that their tombs are both empty.

Our book for discussion next month is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  The play will be performed in Jacksonville May 1-6.  Atlantic Coast Bank is organizing a trip to St. Augustine then an evening of Les Miserables on May 3rd.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Adults Reading Young Adult Books

Oh no! This columnist, Joel Stein, thinks that adults should read only adult books and forget about the teen books such as Hunger Games and books in the Twilight series.  I just finished reading the fifth and last book in the Boy Sherlock Holmes series by Shane Peacock targeting young adults.   They were all good reads but I prefer the first two in the series.  Sorry Joel but I am not with you. The Hunger Games is on my list of books to read this year.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Best-Sellers This Week.

I must be among the few who had never heard of this book, also referred to as "Mommy porn", until this week; Fifty Shades of Grey.  It's number 1 on the New York Times e-book fiction best-seller list, number 3 on Amazon’s best-seller list, and number 4 on USA Today's best-seller list. It's a trilogy by a British female writer E L James. By the way, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is number 1 on USA Today's best-seller list. This is book 1 of a post-apocalyptic trilogy. Books 2 and 3 are also on the USA Today's best-seller list.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Agatha Awards 2011

I found a list of the nominees for the Agatha Award for Best  Novel in 2011 on this link

The Real Macaw (Meg Lanslow series) by Donna Andrews Meg Lansl (Minotaur)

The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis (Berkley)

Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)

Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

I just finished reading A Trick of the Light and I loved it.   I'm eager to read book number 8, The Beautiful Mystery, set in a monastery, to be released in August.

The series of award winning books by Donna Andrews all have bird names in the title; the first one is Murder with Peacocks and is set in Virginia. All these novels seem to fall in the cozy mysteries genre - no gory murder details; small town or village setting; funny, entertaining or eccentric secondary characters.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Murder in Three Pines ... Again

If you have read any of my posts, you'll realized that my title is referring to the Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny set in a village called Three Pine in Quebec, Canada.  I am reading A Trick of Light, shortlisted for a Dilys Award and named one of the best crime novels of 2011.

The focus of this story is on the artists, Clara and Peter Morrow.  Peter is the one who has achieved some fame and now Clara has got her big break. At the beginning of the story Clara's art is on show at a famous art gallery. She's a nervous wreck at her "vernissage" where her friends and special invited guests are viewing her works.  Peter's jealousy of Clara came up in previous books; it's rearing its ugly head here. Everything is interrupted as the very next morning the dead body of Clara's former childhood friend, Lillian, is found in Clara's garden.   Lillian was an art critic known for her acerbic critiques.  One particularly negative critique written by Lillian stands out in everyone's mind but no one can remember the name of the artist that was her target. My guess is find the target and maybe Chief Inspector Gamache and his team will find the murderer.

Some interesting themes are highlighted in this story.  There are references to light and darkness, fear and greed, jealousy and bitterness, hope and forgiveness.  There is a romance element in the story.  I am only going to reveal that Inspector Beauvoir has separated from his wife and he's in love with a married woman who, so far, has not shown romantic interest in him.

I am on page 113 and I am enjoying the quirky characters. Myrna,the retired psychologist, is coordinating a kind of exorcism of negative energy from Clara's garden using a prayer stick and colored ribbons.  Some type of ritual was also written about in the first book in the series, Still Life, after the death of Clara's closest friend.  I was hoping to see the very odd Agent Yvette Nichol in this story but so far no sign of her.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer on OWN

Link to to watch a brief clip of Ms. Davis and Ms. Spencer talking about their portrayal of characters in the movie, The Help, based on one of our favorite book club choices. Ms. Davis is rocking that hairdo and earrings with style. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Canadian writer Louise Penny does it again.  This book, Bury Your Dead, took me on a wild ride.  There were  three stories going on in the one book. One was a murder mystery set in the village of Three Pines; a continuation from the last book in the series, Brutal Telling. That murder investigation was led by a reluctant Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and guided by the omnipresent hand or maybe I should say the mind of Gamache.  The other mystery occurred in the past but was haunting Gamache in the present as he tried to solve the murder of an unlikeable Archaeologist in the anglo-operated library of the Literary and Historical Society (Lit and His) in the city of Quebec.  Interwoven in the Quebec murder mystery is the history of Quebec and the animosity between the francophones and the anglophones.  The Battles of the Plains of Abraham and Samuel de Champlain are mentioned throughout the telling of the Quebec portion of the story.

The theme in the story had to do with letting go of grief, loss, and lies.  There were all kinds of loss in the story: loss of friendship, loss of voice, loss of the dead body of a historical figure.  The writing is really good caused me to be on edge.  I was eager to get to the end to see who the murderer was in each of the three stories and the motive for the mayhem. 

The strength of Louise Penny's writings is the quirky characters.   Grumpy Ruth the poet, Clara the artist, and Myrna the black retired Psychologist who owns a book store reappear in the story.  There were equally quirky characters on the Board of the Lit and His; the librarian who thinks she is fluent in French and the man who spoke in a whisper, for examples. The very odd, annoying, but smart agent Yvette Nichol made a brief appearance in this story.  She's been stuck in an office where she has been forced to learn to acquire effective listening skills. I am hoping she will appear in the next Penny mystery, A Trick of the Light.

Read a little of Louise Penny's blog here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Detective Novel

I am sharing information today about a debut novel by Jamaican-born Gillian Royes with the weird title of  Goat head of Largo Bay.  Watch  She is envisioning a series of 10 books and it all started in her dreams. Will she be the new Jamaican version of Canadian Louise Penny?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

I am on page 44 of Bury Your Dead.   The setting is different from the previous books in the Three Pines series but, as usual, there are plots and subplots in the story as I have come to expect in Penny's books. The first few pages had to do with what appears to be some type of raid led by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in which he underestimated the danger involved. The story then fast forwards to Gamache on leave in old Quebec City and staying with his retired mentor.  He is accompanied by his dog and has been doing research at the Literary and Historical Society library. Slowly certain facts are revealed. Gamache was injured in that raid.  Inspector Beauvoir is also at home recuperating. Young officers have been killed.  We don't know what exactly happened in the raid.  How did it go so wrong?

There is a link back to The Brutal Telling and therefore back to the quirky characters from Three Pines.  Gabri has been sending letters daily to Gamache insisting that Oliver, his incarcerated partner, is innocent.  His certainty is based on the dead body being moved.  Why would Oliver move the body of his victim to a place where it could be found when he could have left it in the woods. I am hoping all the loose ends from that murder mystery will have a satisfactory resolution in this book.

Naturally, in the midst of this, a dead body is found in the basement of the library that Gamache has been visiting.  He is asked to get involved even if it were a minor role as interpreter for the French speaking police and the English speaking librarian.   Up to this point in the book he has refused.  We meet new characters in this book, the Board members at the Literary and Historical Society.  They are all aged except for a young pastor.

At least one amazon reviewer has said that this is the best one in the series.  I will let you know if it is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What are you reading now?

I finished The Brutal Telling. The ending leaves you wanting more.  Too many loose ends;  too many things are unresolved.  I want to know what was the brutal telling that made Emily Carr leave home?  The themes in The Brutal Telling were greed and fear.  The biggest fear according to the author was conscience.    I have moved on to the next book in the Three Pines series by Louise Penny, Bury Your Dead.  Hopefully, I will get some answers here.

What are you reading now?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Brutal Telling

I am on page 362 of the Brutal Telling.  This story reminds me of a lite version of the Da Vinci Code and The Amber Room by Steve Berry.  There  are codes to be broken and interpreted.  There is art, history,  religion, literature - poetry and allegory intertwined in the story.  For example, the  story incorporates a statue of the artist Emily Carr and her monkey named woo.  Emily left home because of some mysterious incident involving her father.   Also, there is a reference to the Buddhist belief in the Wheel of Life, specifically the "Hungry Ghost".  That's a concept of the state of man where the more he fills his life with food or money or power, the hungrier he is for more.

The murder weapon has been found, a motive for murder has been discerned, and an arrest has been made. Yet, at this point of the story there are unanswered questions, as the author says, a wide trail of "maybes" and "whys". How did the dead man end up with historical treasures that have not been reported stolen; such as a pane from the Amber Room.  Why did Dr Gilbert turn up around the time when a murder takes place?  Coincidence? I can't wait to read more.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Three Pines Series

As you know my dear reader, I became hooked on Louise Penny ever since reading Still Life, a book club selection,with a French Canadian village setting. I am on page 245 of The Brutal Telling, the fifth in the Three Pines series.  Imagine my surprise when I received my copy of First Magazine for Women, dated March 5th, and found a book recommendation; the 7th book in the Three Pines series, A Trick of the Light.  In that story, Lillian is found dead in Clara's garden; a woman Clara claims she has not seen in twenty years.

In The Brutal Telling, a dead man is found in the bistro, owned by Gabriel and Oliver, in the village of Three Pines.  Oliver knows the dead man but is pretending he has no idea who he is.  Everyone knows the hiding place for the key to the bistro so anybody could have killed the stranger and put him in the bistro.  The question is why was the body moved to the bistro, where was he killed and why. 

Chief Inspector Gamache is on the case with the usual team plus one rookie.  Fascinating story so far especially the sub plot of the old Hadley house which has new owners who want to turn the house of death and evil into an exclusive spa destination.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Book Club Selection 2012

I love this quote.  Wanted to share with you book lovers:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one.”― George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Two days ago, I finished reading the classic historical fiction, Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, set in the period of the French Revolution.  Interestingly, what led to the revolution was the situation where the poor was burdened with heavy taxation while the rich and nobility had numerous tax exemptions.

I loved the storyline divided into three parts: Andre-Louis the lawyer and cynic; Andre-Louis transforming into Scaramouche the improv actor, writer, and businessman;  then Andre-Louis the master swordsman and revolutionary.  In 1952, the movie version of Scaramouche starred Stewart Granger as Andre-Louis and Janet Leigh as Aline.

A book club member introduced me to the writings of Louise Penny, a Canadian murder mystery writer. Today, I will move on to Louise Penny's fifth book, The Brutal Telling.  After that, I will start our book club selection for March, The Paris Wife. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Toastmasters Newsletters

If you have an interest in public speaking, story-telling, or leadership skills, please browse these Toastmasters newsletters posted on Scribd.  Let me know what you think.  If you are in South-east Georgia and want to visit a meeting, walk right in and say Ms. Jan invited you.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book club Selection - Scaramouche

I am at an important part of the story where Andre Louis becomes Scaramouche.  This is the background: Andre-Louis is wanted for sedition and has decided to hide from the law by joining a group of itinerant actors who all use stage names.   Andre-Louis took on the name Parvissimus but now the lead actor in a play titled Figaro-Scaramouche is ill. Andre-Louis has been pressured into taking the role of the lead, Scaramouche.  On page 133 he reflects on the changes in his life over the course of a week.  Andre-Louis says that he has gone from lawyer, mob-orator, outlaw, property-man doing manual labor, and now to a buffoon whose role is to move an audience to laughter using sarcastic humor.  Apparently a scaramouche is  someone who is sly, an astute intriguer who stirs up trouble and that is exactly what Andre has been doing since his friend Philippe died.  I am very interested in seeing how this story develops.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Historical Fiction - Scaramouche

Scaramouche is an interesting story set in France in the period of the French Revolution.  I am finding it a little difficult to follow the English translated from the French so I am reading the story slowly. First sentence in the book tells us the protagonist Andre-Louis, a lawyer from the village of Gavrillac, was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. 

Early in the story, his friend Philippe de Vilmorir, a divinity student, has gotten himself killed in a duel with the Marquis de la Tour Azyr.   The background to his death is very simple. A vassal of Lord Gavrillac was stealing pheasants from the property of the Marquis and the gamekeeper on the property killed him. Philippe, with his sense of justice, wanted reparation for the vassal's widow.  Philippe's meeting with Lord Gavrillac did not go well.   Lord Gavrillac, Godfather to Andre-Louis, wants his niece Aline to marry the Marquis and certainly did not think that the family of a thieving vassal deserved reparation.   Philippe was more hopeful about his meeting scheduled with the Marquis himself.  To Andre-Louis' shock, Philippe ended up being killed in an unfair duel with the Marquis.  The Marquis admitted that he was bothered by the oratorical skills of Phillipe.  Suddenly, Philippe's fight for justice becomes a fight against the wealthy nobility.  That in turn becomes Andre-Louis' fight and his weapon is his oratory skills.

I am on page 96 and Scaramouche, described as a villainous-looking fellow, has appeared in the story.  It took me a while but to figure out that Scaramouche and his company of 12 which included Climene, Leandre, Harlequin, and Rhodomont were actors.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Okefenokee Book Club Moves to Paris

We will be moving to Paris and stopping over in London ... in our imagination.  Members of the club have selected the following books for discussion this year:
  •  Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Let's Try to Understand SOPA & PIPA

Unless you were hiding under a rock you must have heard or experienced the successful web blackout on January 18th.  I say successful because the Senators who sponsored *SOPA/*PIPA have backed off  ... for now.  The bills need more "due dilligence", they say. 

Why were SOPA and PIPA  proposed in the first place, you may be asking.  Well, Hollywood studios, recording industry, computer software publishing companies, and major publishing houses lobbied Congress to act against foreign Web sites (the pirates) that give away U.S. movies, music and books and enable copyright infringement.  They say piracy costs the county 100,000 jobs.

So stopping copyright violation is one side of the argument; however, read this article to find out how SOPA and PIPA would affect you personally.  Read the part that says the acts would make bloggers responsible for everything that is on their site and this would include the comments of visitors.  Read also the part about posting a video of your child, on YouTube, singing his or her favorite song.

The Anti-SOPA faction are against *DNS filtering (blocking access/connection to domains/hostnames) which it calls policing the web and censoring the free flow of information. Listen also to Clay Shirky 18 minute talk defending the right to share.

Let's learn some Acronyms:
SOPA = Stop Online Piracy Act
PIPA = Protect Intellectual Property Act
DMCADigital Millennium Copyright  Act
DNS =  Domain Name System (a look-up service for translating a website name to an IP (Internet Protocol) address)

Monday, January 16, 2012

More Louise Penny Books

I finished reading Canadian writer Louise Penny's book, A Rule Against Murder, this morning.   I was not disappointed; very good storyline with an unexpected twist.  I have three more in the Three Pines mystery series to check out: The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, and A Trick of the Light.

Louise Penny is a four time winner of The Agatha Award for Best Mystery naturally named in honor of British writer, Agatha Christie.

While I am waiting for The Brutal Telling to arrive, I am going to start reading a recommendation from  a book club member Scaramouche, an old historical fiction that was made into a movie.