A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nathaniel Danes's Guest Post: Seeds of Imagination

Here's a great guest post from Nathaniel Danes, a fellow writer:

I can't speak for any author other than myself but I find the world ripe with seemingly insignificant scraps of information begging to be nurtured, grown into a story. I look at my ordinary life with the goal of finding hidden adventure.
I'm low vision, functionally blind in most situations. As you can guess, my degrading retinas restrict what I can do in the real world. I love skiing, scuba diving, and a host of other activities I can no longer do, or do how I want to do them. This fighting retreat has been the story of my life since being medically discharge from the Army at the old age of seventeen, following my diagnosis.
Simply put, I can't live the life I want to so my imagination has become my keep. My final impenetrable stronghold, impervious to the ravages of my affliction. I can go anywhere and do anything. It's an escape I utilize regularly.
Maybe it's just me because my mind is so desperate for new material to chew on but I'll grad ahold of a minor piece of information and build an entire universe around it. That's how my latest novel, BattleMaster was born.
Several years ago I saw a short segment on TV about the US Air Force's experiments with craft controlled by a pilot's brainwaves. The pilots were hooked up to simulators but the results were still very interesting. A female subject remarked that initial findings suggested women were better at this method of operation.
The seed had been planted.
That fact whispered in my ear for years and I combined it with others I picked up. Such as, knowledge the female brain is wired to maximize multitasking while males are superior at focusing on a single objective. Both have their advantages and are likely a result of survival demands dating back millennia. Men hunting and providing protection while woman cared for the young and performed any number of important tasks.
Theses two bits of information are what formed the roots of BattleMaster. I asked myself, if women are better at multitasking and the future of warfare is drone based, wouldn't they one day reign supreme on the battlefield? My imagination went from there and the story blossomed until it found its way to the page.
So, pay attention to the world around you. Seeds of imagination are adrift everywhere. 

Nathaniel Danes is a self-diagnosed sci-fi junkie and, according to his wife, has an over active imagination. Mostly blind, he writes to create universes where he has no limitations. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Washington, DC area.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Behave, by Andromeda Romano-Lax

This is a strange book.  In a good way.

The writing is evocative, the setting and time period rich and convincing. The tone and style are nearly perfect for the era and subject matter.

I found it very engaging...even though I usually disconnect somewhat when I don't admire any of the characters. While I sympathized with Rosalie, and found myself wanting to like her, I couldn't quite get over some of what she allowed/condoned. I didn't like John Watson much at all, but he was a undeniably fascinating character. This complexity kept me interested, kept me thinking about it even after I finished.

I do rather wish I had read the author's notes at the back first, because I read the novel assuming that it was based on known facts about Rosalie with details filled in by the author, when it turns out most of Rosalie's story was pure invention. That always confuses my sense of truth and makes me doubt the parts that really were based on fact. However, this is just my own personal problem with historical fiction. Besides, we all know how accurate our “true” histories are.

What follows is not exactly a criticism of the book. It's a criticism of Watson, Rosalie, and all their associates. Okay, here goes: those real-life experiments with infants were unbelievable. Bad enough was the sheer cruelty of it: practically torturing unwilling and defenseless subjects in the quest to permanently leave them negatively conditioned. Um...unethical? 

 But even if you accept that Watson was an unethical man, or a man with twisted Machiavellian ethics, I had a hard time believing his scientific method (or lack thereof). He was supposedly a great scientist, as was Rosalie, but their experiment structure was so flawed that I—not a scientist—saw the giant problems. For example, with the Albert B experiments: One subject? Really? Tests that change more than one variable at a time? And then you modify the experiment midstream to try to get the result you want? So unscientific. And it's sickly irresponsible to base entire child-rearing theories on insanely small sample sizes of relatively short duration that—even if they were more scientific and duplicatable—wouldn't prove as much as you claim they prove. So why did no one really question his methods at the time? 

 I think the novel could have more fully explored these issues, really examining the psychology of seeing what you want to see instead of what really IS, of letting yourself get swept away in bad science for some imagined greater good or because of the authority-in-a-white-coat phenomenon or because you're in love or in lust. And what about dealing with the guilt when you finally understand what you did? All of this is addressed to a degree in the book, some of it quite elegantly, but I would have liked to have seen less of the romance in favor of a deeper treatment of these and other more interesting topics.

It's a compelling book. I would certainly read more by Andromeda Romano-Lax.   

Four Stars

Monday, April 10, 2017

Guest Post: Alaska Cruising Highlights

Check out my guest post on the Page Turner, Vicki Goodwin's site.  It's an article about some of my favorite experiences cruising Alaska.  And it's got pictures.

While you're there, check out some of the Vicki Goodwin's posts about books and authors. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

4 Books Everyone Should Read--Guest Post

Here's a guest post from Cassie, an avid reader:

Whether you’re taking the bus to work or on an amazing trip through the Czech Republic, a good book is the best companion. There’s the classics of course, but if you’re an avid reader you probably have already read through most of them. Or, if not, they’re at least on your to-do list. However, there are plenty of amazing books that might not be considered ‘classics,’ but that will absolutely keep you engaged from beginning to end and may end up being one of your favorites.

If you’re an avid traveler, you might want to consider getting these books in digital format whether as an audiobook or eBook. The best part about doing this is that you can always download these while you’re on-the-go. Just remember to use a virtual private network when using public WiFi so that hackers can’t steal your credit card info.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Set during WWII, this Pulitzer-winning book combines the world of comic books with the horrifying reality of war. It follows Joe Kavalier as he and his cousin Sammy Clay attempt to make a living for themselves creating comics. Chabon expertly weaves together reality and art until it becomes impossible to tell the two apart. Besides this, this book also blends the history and development of comic books, magic, Jewish mysticism and even a little romance.

The Phantom Tollbooth
While technically a middle reader, The Phantom Tollbooth will capture the imagination of adults and children alike. For young Milo, everything seems boring. That is until a tollbooth appears in his room. Curious, he decides to take his toy car and drives through, only to be teleported to exciting new worlds. Thus, Milo’s journey begins. What sets this book apart from other fantasy adventure stories is its focus on wordplay and the transformative power of words. At every turn there’s another surprise waiting around the corner proving that even everyday events can turn into magical occurrences.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Get ready for the wackiest interstellar journey of your life. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is pretty much a spoof of every science fiction novel you’ve ever read complete with a hapless hero, a hyper-dimensional space trace, a depressed robot and aliens who want to destroy the Earth (though it’s not personal). There are countless one-liners you likely see now in pop-culture such as the meaning of life is 42. And let’s not forget the ragtag band of characters and hilarious humor sprinkled throughout the book. This book is part of a five-book series, so if you like this one, there is plenty more adventure out there to enjoy.

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
Being Prince Charming isn’t all sunshine and roses. In fact, it’s hard and often unappreciated work. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom offers a fresh take on classic fairy tales by following the nameless princes of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel. As usual, there’s trouble afoot and it’s up to these princes to save the day from bandits, dragons and witches. It’ll have you in stitches from the humor and excellent banter between all of the characters. If you’re looking for a good way to wind down after a stressful day, this is a great choice.

While these aren’t the most challenging books to read, they’ll still stimulate your imagination and put a smile on your face. Plus, reading is good for your health, no matter the genre.

What books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author: Cassie is a freelance tech writer and reading enthusiast. While she loves the feel of a paperback, she also loves how technology such as eReaders and tablets has made it easier for her to read anywhere.  Check out culturecoverage.com.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017