Mysterious Galaxy Part One: Christopher Moore

There’s a place in my world where many power lines of writing talent converge. As a result, I have met many authors, attended many classes and workshops, and purchased many, many books. Many. The high points in this Network Of Writing Talent (NOWT) are local science fiction conventions, RWA chapter meetings, and an independent bookstore called Mysterious Galaxy. Continue reading “Mysterious Galaxy Part One: Christopher Moore”

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Around the World in 80+ Books, Part 13

The most exciting parts of traveling are the day you leave and start the adventure, and the day you roll home with tons of laundry to do and weariness you wouldn’t trade for anything. So let’s jump off of Cypress and head on to Gambia. Where the Gamers all live.

241. Gambia. Mid-week, I mentioned my love of horses in fiction, novels like The Black Stallion making up a large part of my story-spinning daydreams. Alhaji by Ebou Dibba is the story of a 16-year-old boy who owns a dream horse, and what happens when he is offered a lot of money to sell the animal to a rich man. Horses aren’t just property, nor is any animal who shares our lives. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4552704-alhaji?ac=1

242. Germany. Yeah, missed it completely. So much great literature here, but I think Three Comrades: A Novel of Germany Between the Wars by Erich Maria Remarque is a good choice. Trying to keep alive and employed in a country devastated by war and treated as less than human by the rest of the world, these three young men keep each other going, and are the most vulnerable to love. There’s apparently a Russian version that is equally well received. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91203.Three_Comrades?ac=1

243. Grenada. What if you emigrated to a beautiful island in the Caribbean just in time for a Communist Revolution to break out? Why, you’d probably write a book about it. That’s what Kay Howard did. Memories to Die For: An American Family’s Terror-filled Adventures on the Island of Granada. Reviews are mixed, some complain about the ethnocentric Americans looking down on the native inhabitants, and some enjoying the page-turning pace of the adventures. It’s worth a look. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/218531.Memories_to_Die_for?ac=1

244. Guinea-Bissau. As a country on the coast of Africa, Guinea-Bissau has lots of needs, such as clean water, improved economy, and good health care. Or is that California? Anyway, I admire the woman who set up clinics to treat many diseases that were rampant in the country. I don’t know if I admire the fact that she came to do God’s work, which meant creating a written version of the language and translating the New testament into that language. That feels a bit heavy handed to me, and a bit of the culture might have just changed completely. Still this book is God’s Needle: How Lily Gaynor Brought Hope and Healing to the Land of the Witchdoctors. It could have been much worse.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17575050-god-s-needle?from_search=true

245. Kosovo. I have the pleasure to be acquainted with a woman who sponsored a family from Kosovo. Their experiences while leaving the war-torn area are horrific. And one can only rage impotently at the brutality and death the children of the family witnessed. My friend calls the children her grandchildren, and they are her spiritual family. We say one person can’t do very much alone, but there are so many examples of what one person can do that we have to stop saying that or believing it. I picked The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley because it’s a true story and it’s an accidental book. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21945723-the-hemmingway-book-club-of-kosovo?ac=1

246. Kuwait. Once more a book is set between two wars, these the Gulf wars with poetic names like Desert Storm and Desert Shield. In the intersection of the lives of five different people, lies a crime of abuse against a young woman. The reviews of Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet (what an awesome name!) are mostly ecstatic to have found the book. Wise and well paced, said one. Another quoted wonderful lines and noted the pages. Looking forward to this read. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6845658-small-kingdoms?ac=1

247. Nauru. One of many people who “discovered” this island called it Pleasant Island. During World War II, the island was invaded by Japanese soldiers, two-thirds of the population taken away without communication to those left behind. Captivity and starvation on the island, exile off the island, the people survived, and Jemima Garrett wrote their story in Island Exiles. Not found on Goodreads, so here’s a Google link. http://books.google.com/books/about/Island_Exiles.html?id=zuD_PAAACAAJ

248. Netherlands. So many choices, but as an avid fan of Gregory Maguire, I had to go with Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Yes, the reviews are mixed, and yes, he might belabor a point or two, but his retelling of Cinderella has to be worth the read, as well as giving us a glimpse into seventeenth-century Holland. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18943.Confessions_of_an_Ugly_Stepsister?ac=1

249. Sint Maarten. Oh, how I love islands. The privacy, the luxury, the sand and the sea. A Time to Love by Barbara Delinsky is referred to by one reviewer as Lifestyles of the Rich and Horny. Okay, I’ll buy that. Rich girl with a broken heart meets celebrity photographer, and lust ensues. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1268352.A_Time_to_Love

250. South Africa. There are people who can’t wait to leave the place where they were born and grew up. Then they realize they will be taking with them everything they inherited from that place. Imaginings of Sand (Afrikaan’s title would translate to Sand Castles, I believe) by André Brink tells the story of a woman who escaped, but her loyalty to her family calls her back. The reviews complain a bit about a man writing as a woman. So I guess my book about a bisexual male in Regency England would not work? I wouldn’t worry about a man writing as a woman, I would comment on a person doing well as a writer. But that’s me. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/509676.Imaginings_of_Sand?ac=1

251. Sudan. I want to mention a children’s book, A Long Walk To Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7981456-a-long-walk-to-water?from_search=true I have to read this one, just to see how the two stories come together. But I also like the true story Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis. All the reviews are 3 to 5 stars, the first one saying that if you are a Politically Correct sort of person, this book is going to piss you off. Not for the faint-hearted and life changing follow. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3170677-tears-of-the-desert?from_search=true

252. Switzerland. I picked The Raven and the Rose by Susan Wigg because it takes place in the Monastery of St. Bernard, where the beautiful and intelligent dogs were bred and trained. But there are half a dozen books with that title or near enough titles, and even an author named Rose Raven. If ever a book called for a subtitle, this would be it. However, our story takes place in the time of Napoleon, which I know covers a few decades, but the hero known as the Raven is sent to kill a royal bastard of Louis the XVI who might be able to derail Bonapart’s plans. The Rose, the natural child of the king, knows nothing of her heritage, and, well, it’s been a long war and the Raven could use a little R and R. (See what I did there?) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1293412.The_Raven_and_the_Rose?from_search=true

Well, that’s the world, so now we need to go somewhere else. How about a quick trip out through the Solar System?

253. The Sun. Full disclosure impels me to admit I am a huge fan of David Brin, I will sit in on any panel he is on at a convention, and I love the Uplift War sagas in the extreme. So of course when thinking of a book that takes place on the sun, I thought of Sundiver. I really loved this murder mystery set in space on the most unique ship I have ever encountered. Reviews are mixed, but that’s humans for you. Not obsessed with current technology, and Brin does have a way of making things just work. The concept of the food dispensers doesn’t come with diagrams and synthesizer discourses. It simply gives food. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/96472.Sundiver?from_search=true

254. Mercury. I learned something very interesting while researching this book. Before Lord of the Rings came out, there was a very similar epic (similar in basics, not in detail) called The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison. Tolkien himself even acknowledged its influence on his books. That makes it a must read for me. Most reviews are 5 and 4 stars and very complimentary, so let the enchantment continue. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13624.The_Worm_Ouroboros?ac=1

255. Venus. The Radio Planet by Ralph Milne Farley (who also writes as Roger Sherman Hoar) deals with the invention of matter transmission by radio, allowing the hero to encounter monsters, dinosaurs, and giant insects! This is the third book in the Radio Man series, and has that macho, weapon-wielding Earth man bit we grew up with. Two out of three reviews gave it high marks. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2258426.The_Radio_Planet?ac=1

256. Mars. (We did earth, remember? Look back a few weeks, I’ll wait. Ready now?) John Carter of Mars is the perfect series for the Red Planet, and the first book in the Barsoom series is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is the plot that turned up in the movie John Carter. Now I have to go watch it again. I don’t care what the reviewers said, this is a great story. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40395.A_Princess_of_Mars?from_search=true

257. Jupiter. Well, yes, but there’s no real land mass on Jupiter, so we’ll visit the moon Callisto. And in a style much like Edgar Rice Burroughs’s, Lin Carter presents Jandar of Calisto. You know, battling mean aliens, saving the beautiful princess, and being the first in a series. Good reviews, worth a look.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1005186.Jandar_Of_Callisto?from_search=true

258. Saturn. We turn from the epic sagas and such to much more “hard” science fiction. Robert L. Forward was a scientist and an aerospace engineer. His books, like Saturn Rukh, are cited as having scientific credibility. Some fans of sci-fi want to read the fluffy stuff and let the facts fall where they may. That’s why space ships were making noise in space long after we knew that wouldn’t happen. But if you can challenge yourself to read this interesting premise of four people being paid to research Saturn’s atmosphere and the possibility of turning that ball of gas into useable fuel, you won’t be disappointed. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/263467.Saturn_Rukh?ac=1

259. Uranus. Another gas giant. Oh, stop giggling. Goodreads has never heard of this book, although there are a bazillion titles by the author, Edmund Hamilton. And Amazon has it as a double book, so that’s the best I can give you. Treasure on Thunder Moon is a story of someone on the edge of being too old for their chosen profession, but getting one more chance to pilot a starship and find untold wealth. No reviews available, love the pulp fictionesque cover. http://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Thunder-Moon-Trail-Astrogar/dp/1612871348

260. Neptune. Well, let’s just put in on the moon called Triton, shall we? Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey A. Carver is a First Contact tale, and not just meet and greet sort of contact. Allowing an alien to set up housekeeping in your personal brain. Exciting idea to some, claustrophobic to others. A good, hard-science read, maybe a little weak at the end, but maybe that’s to allow a sequel some day. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/590747.Neptune_Crossing?ac=1

260A. Pluto. Please take any debates about the planetaryness of Pluto outside. I don’t care. I grew up with 9 planets, and I am happy to be a Niner. I only made this 260A because otherwise I am over my limit of 20 books per week. So there. And what a wonderful book to mark this last stop on the way out of the solar system! Whisperer in the Darkness by H. P. Lovecraft. Did you know Mr. L actually discovered Pluto? In his dreams and imagination? Of course, he called it Yuggoth. And while he was writing this story, the planet was discovered. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/912625.The_Whisperer_in_Darkness?ac=1

Honorable mention to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s First Lensman novel, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/826521.First_Lensman?ac=1
And Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit – Will Travel. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20417.Have_Space_Suit_Will_Travel?ac=1

Next Sunday, I’ll be back to writing things about writing, and my new mid-week day is Thursday. See you then.

Games to Play With Books

An advantage to Facebook and Scribophile is the ability to play weird games that would be much less fun face to face. Imagine getting out lists of silly words, one for each letter of the alphabet and one for each month of the year, and having your friends at a party tell you what their porn star name would be, based on the month they were born and the first letter of their last name. Not enough alcohol in the world to make that funny.

But on Facebook you can post a list like that and get 90 results in a couple hours. And it’s rather amusing. On Scribophile, depending on which forum you post it in, you can get similar results, but the crowd there is more literary. So games with books are popular.

The first book game I experienced involved picking up the book closest to you, turning to page 39, and reading the second line of the third paragraph down. This was interesting, but not hugely amusing. Much more fun, you are in the book you are currently reading. Where are you? I was, primarily, in the British Colonies four years before the Revolutionary War, but also in South Carolina in the 1960s, and bouncing from the Philippines in 1944 and the Philippines in almost current times.

Take the titles of the last five books you read, choose one word from each, and make a new title for a short story. The Secret Autumn of Love’s Fiery Homeland. I’d read that!

We have something on Scribophile called Book Boyfriends, those alpha male bad boys you just can’t forget. Mr. Darcy? Yeah, well, I go for the classics. And a certain Highlander with a time-traveling wife is on the list. Is it weird to include his dark-haired son-in-law? (Side Question: Wonder who Diana Gabaldon based Roger MacKenzie on that she disliked so much, she has nearly killed the character? Not just once, forebye.)

Of course, there are the usual, if you could dine with or talk with any character out of any book, who would it be? But this pretty much duplicates the list above. How about the book you would want read to you if you were in a comma?

Here’s a game with books that you can actually play face to face! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/books/paperback-game-fun-with-literary-opening-lines.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Have a good week, I’ll be back on Sunday!

Love of Books also Means Love of Bookstores.

I could spend hours just walking around a book store, just touching books. Dreaming of getting my book here, but also wishing I had more time to read. I had hoped to find some videos of readers getting excited at a book store or something like that. But only one video came up.

If I am ever in Louisville, I am going to find this bookstore. Just the line about their children’s reading hour where each child goes home with a book won me over. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6VEzSEU8uM

Locally I love to participate in Mysterious Galaxy’s events, their annual birthday party, their various book signings, and talk to them in the vendor rooms at a couple small science fiction conventions here. They do specialize in mysteries and science fiction, and I so wish they could throw Romance in there. Until recently, they would come to our Romance Writers of America local chapter meetings and sell books written by the guest speakers and club members. But the rules at National RWA changed or were made stricter, and we complied. https://www.mystgalaxy.com/

Here’s a great idea! Open your own bookstore! Well, we all may wish to do so, but there is a need for good business sense and full time focus on the store. Ann Patchett (an author I am sorry to say I haven’t read before) opened her own bookstore and this video shows the wonderful place that resulted. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzaCKpps5EU

Will bookstores disappear in the future? Most folks my age or older, even those who love ereaders, swear they will never not buy hard copy books. But the trend is possible, younger folks learning to read now with textbooks on ereaders or phones may see no use in a bound copy of words written on paper. Here’s one possible future view. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPfThpelv48

I’m a fan of President Obama, and I am not open to political discussion on this blog. If he continues to push the Small Business Saturdays by visiting bookstores, perhaps more people will look closely at the good this campaign can do. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfvIwJif4aA

And that’s a short mid-week post on readers and bookstores! See you on Sunday,