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 WordPress.org) 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.