Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hello, Having a Great Summer!

Galveston, Texas

Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle

Hello!  I just realized I haven't posted on this blog for a month and a half!  Once my daughter finished the school year, somehow the time has flown by.  Where does it go?

She will be at camp this week, so I should be able to write reviews about the last 5 books I have read and write a bit about what I've been writing.

Have also been out of town (several times to Galveston, TX) and have had both sides of the family come and visit (not at the same time - my house isn't that big).  Please enjoy some pictures.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gulf Oil Disaster

This blog is usually about books in some way, but I thought I would put up this widget about the Gulf Oil Disaster.  We all need to be informed, so we don't do this again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lament For A Maker by Michael Innes

Michael Innes, a talented and prolific author of British mystery novels, crafts Lament for a Maker well by dividing it into seven sections from the viewpoints of five different characters (two characters have two sections) who, bit by bit, reveal a haunting, intriguing, and beguiling tale of truth and deceit.

This mystery involves an eccentric old lord-of-the-manor type generally called "Guthrie."  He is the last in a long line of Guthrie's, lesser lords who have reigned over the area around Kinkeig, Scotland since feudal times until today from their Castle Erchany.  The question surrounds the present Guthrie's sudden death from a fall from the magnificent, medieval tower at Erchany in the middle of a relentless snowstorm on Christmas eve.

In the first section, Innes masters, at least according to this American reviewer, a certain local Scottish dialect.  If there is a difficult part of the book to read, this would be it.  However, much like reading a foreign language, I gradually became used to the unfamiliar vocabulary.  Innes has many more teasing plot twists and delicious descriptions after the first narrator, so keep on reading.  I found the journey through the facts and fiction to the finale quite satisfying.  This was my first Inspector Appleby Mystery and I plan to read more.

Title:  Lament For A Maker
Author:  Michael Innes
Publisher:  House of Stratus
Copyright:  2001
ISBN:  1-84232-741-0

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wannabe Writers #16

Wannabe Writers is a writing group for the un-published and anyone is welcome to join. This meme is sponsored by Sarah Darlington at Confessions of the Un-Published. It's a place where future authors can ask questions, share stories, and get feedback. Click (here) to find more about how it works.  This is my first Wannabe Writer post.  I hope it is helpful and interesting.

Where I am in the writing process:  I just declared myself officially as a writer at the beginning of this month, May 2010.  I have several ideas written down in my writing notebook.  I haven't actually started writing except for a possible first sentence in one project and lots of notes for another.  The notes are coming from research.  I'm writing non-fiction magazine articles for children and hope to write a non-fiction book for kids as well.  As far as novels go, I think that my love of history will lead me to write historical fiction.

Current problems:  I am also a new blogger and am having so much fun getting to know everyone in the reading/writing/reviewing blog world.  I think I need to start spending more time writing yet I'm learning so much through your blogs.  Perhaps I need to find the right balance between the various activities involved in writing such as networking, marketing, brainstorming, researching, note taking, writing, revising, querying, and the list goes on and on.  Does anyone have a handle on this?

Question of the Week:  How to start a story. I've never been very good a writing hooks. Any suggestions? How did you start your story? (Dialogue, description, action, etc.)

I decided to read everyone's Wannabe Writer #16 posts first to help me think.  I started commenting after reading some and came to the conclusion that different writers have different ways of starting a story.  Even the same writer started different stories differently.  Some plan and revise very carefully sometimes and others have the opening come to them sometimes spontaneously although perhaps not unexpectedly.

I like the idea of the "hook."  I've heard journalists are taught the hook from early on.  It seems to make sense that a writer must grab and hold a reader's attention.  The word motivation comes to mind.  A reader must have a compelling motive to want to read on.  How does a writer motivate a reader to keep reading?  One way might be to give the reader some astounding, shocking, or other attention grabbing bit of information, but then hint at the fact there is much more to know and understand, and he/she won't be satisfied or happy in life unless that "more" is discovered.  I think page-turner authors create this forward, catalytic (sp?) motion not just at the beginning but also at other key points in their works.

Teaser Tuesdays - My Other Half

I haven't written a Teaser Tuesday in awhile, so I have a bit of time and thought I would submit one today.  There is a special reason I am quoting My Other Half:  it was written by a sophmore who attends our local high school. 

Teaser Tuesdays is a bookish meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following.
  • Grab your current read
  • Turn to a random page  
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Be careful not to include spoilers that give away something that would ruin the book for others  
  • Share the page, title, and author so that other TT participants can put the book on their TBR list if they like your "teasers"
Please leave a COMMENT here and leave a link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 "teasers" in a comment here if you don't have a blog. Thanks!

My Teasers:

Her right half of the body shone with unnatural light.
It was made of pure metal, nothing else.

My Other Half by Gracie C. Qu,  p. 1

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I liked The Book Thief: however, I had heard so many good things about it and my expectations had been set so high that when I actually read it,  I was a little disappointed.  I'm not certain whether I would have been let down had I not listened to all the hype.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

Without giving too much away, I liked that the main character was bright, female, and strong.  (No, this isn't a book about feminism at all.)  The time is World War II in Nazi Germany, so unless a person towed the party line flawlessly (and even if a person did), strength of character and keen intelligence was essential to survive.

Perhaps, there are two main characters.  The narrator is so everpresent and full of unemotional commentaries that a reader knows he is always there whether remembered or not.  The point of view of the narrator fits the historical context well.  A reader would expect him to be there lurking about.  I would have expected the narrator though to be a bit more aggressive, but he seems lazy and almost bored with his plight doing what he must like someone stuck in one of the levels in Dante's hell.

The perseverance of the secondary characters (who were also prominent in the book so as to be not so secondary) also appealed to me.  The sheer inhumanity of the times brought out the innermost soul of a person, and these characters do not disappoint.  I would have preferred that Zusak had developed some of the characters who were Nazi supporters a little more however.

Definitely this is a book to read.  Expect to be surprised, shocked, and challenged, but is it as great of a work as some that have withstood the test of time like the accolades would lead a reader to believe?  I'm no so sure.  Zusak's book is riveting and intriguing, though, and I don't want to end on a negative note.  I did like the book and would read it again.

The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick

In The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick, R. P. C. Hanson has written a detailed, historical Introduction. He has also translated and commented upon the two existing works, The Letter to Coroticus and The Confession, composed by St. Patrick himself.

In the three-part Introduction, Hanson puts St. Patrick's writings in context so a reader can more easily understand the era during which Patrick lived, the importance of his work, and the man himself.  The Letter to Coroticus and The Confession at times speak clearly and at others, a reader wonders about Patrick's meaning.  Hanson's commentaries fill in more historical background of the times, events in Patrick's life, and aspects of Patrick's personality to assist the reader in comprehending the two surviving written documents.

I had read The Letter to Coroticus and The Confession before without commentary.  Much of the writing is straight-forward;  however, the overall context in which Patrick wrote was missing.  Thus, I missed much of the meaning behind the words.  For anyone interested in finding out who St. Patrick really was, as opposed to the legends about him, I recommend reading the two works without comments first, decipher what's possible, and then read them again with contextual commentaries.  R. P. C. Hanson knows what he is talking about as an expert on the history of the Celtic church, as Professor of Theology at the University of Manchester, and as Assistant Bishop of Manchester (at the time of publication).

Title:  The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick
Primary Source Author: Saint Patrick
Author of Introduction and Translater:  R. P. C. Hanson
Publisher:  The Seabury Press
Copyright: 1983
ISBN #:  0-8164-0523-9