Saturday, 31 January 2009

Writers Read

All writers read books to get their creative inspiration or research details for an ongoing project. The more information a writer has at his/her fingertips the easier it is to write that compelling yarn just itching to be told. I tend to mix my genres from historical suspense, paranormal suspense, historical biography, fantasy, historical fiction, romantic suspense, crime, science fiction, speculative fiction, and non-fiction in science or physics.

Accompanying the list of books I read in 2008 are several mini-reviews. A few of the books in the list have had a full review done that can be located on the side bar under "Book Reviews".

Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock

This book was first published in 1995. Graham Hancock contends that an ancient and highly advanced civilization had existed in prehistory sometime after the end of the last Ice Age. This civilization had passed on to its inheritors knowledge of astronomy, architecture and mathematics. The evidence is in the descriptions of Osiris, Thoth, Quetzalcoatl and Virachocha which predate-history.

From the back cover: “And Fingerprints of the Gods tells us something more. As we recover the truth about prehistory, and discover the real meaning of ancient myths and monuments, it becomes apparent that a warning has been handed down to us, a warning of terrible cataclysm that afflicts the Earth in great cycles at irregular intervals of time—a cataclysm that may be about to recur.”

I loved this book from the beginning, with its interesting correlations and illustrations to support his theories. Readers to take note this is a tome which will take a long time to read and think about.

The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake - Samuel Bawlf

On September 26, 1580, Sir Francis Drake arrived in Plymouth on the Golden Hinde, completing an epic 65,000-km circumnavigation of the globe. Drake had been gone almost three years, long enough for his wife and others to give him up for dead. No European had set eyes on Drake from April 1579 to November, until a Portuguese galleon was astonished to find an English ship south of the Philippines. Those seven months were under a “royal cone of silence” by order of Queen Elizabeth I. Drake’s sailors were forbidden to reveal their route on pain of death.

Samuel Bawlf provides a compelling case that Drake went much further north than the Californias, as far as southern Alaska. Nova Albion was at Comox on Vancouver Island, and Drake was the first European to visit British Columbia, two centuries before James Cook. The secrecy covered a secret strategy of England to establish its own trade route to Asia while keeping King Philip II of Spain in the dark. Bawlf had discovered over 20 16th-century Dutch maps that accurately described the Pacific northwest coast while those of the official maps of Drake’s voyage do not show those details. Drake’s maps had been censored by shifting the latitude south by 10 degrees. By comparing the old Drake maps with modern ones they show British Columbia’s complex Inside Passage: Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands to the Fraser River. There is also the mystery of the seven missing months in mid-voyage and the puzzling written accounts where Drake turns south because of “biting cold including freezing rain and floating ice”. It was thought that a Little Ice Age had occurred in the northern hemisphere at California.

I enjoyed reading this revealing history of Drake’s secret voyage which coincides with some of the theories from Graham Hancock’s book above, concluding in my mind that humans in control of their respective parts of the planet have been hiding information from the populations for centuries.

The Dragon Reborn - Robert Jordan

The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan

The Fires of Heaven - Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos - Robert Jordan

New Spring - Robert Jordan

A couple of years ago I had been given books 7 and 8 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, and once I was fifty pages into the seventh, I realized I needed to start at the beginning. The story was told as if the reader already knew the histories of the many characters, though the prologue was intriguing enough that I wanted to keep reading. There have been many comments about this series, not all complimentary; though from what I have read of the series so far the majority of negative comments come from people who must have short memories. There are so many characters, primary and sub, events, and background history, that it is difficult at times to keep track of everything. This is an epic series not unlike Tolkien’s masterpiece “The Lord of the Ring”, but instead of three books there are currently 11 volumes with a 12th being written by Brandon Sanderson who had been chosen by Harriet McDougal, (Robert Jordan’s wife), after Jordan’s death in 2007.

The Wheel of Time Series, in the high fantasy genre, began with “The Eye of the World”, followed with “The Great Hunt”. The Dragon Reborn is the third book in the series of a young man, Rand Al’Thor, afflicted with an inherited ability of being able to channel psychic power known as the “One Power”, though he has great difficulty in controlling it. He is destined to fight to the death against the Dark One.

For an overview of this series and the individual books Wikipedia has incorporated many of the major elements into several summaries. It can be found here.

For those readers and fans of The Wheel of Time series my favourite characters are Al'Lan Mandragoran, a body guard who is a weapons expert and very dangerous, and Matrim "Mat" Cauthon, a young man always into mischief and consequences of that mischief.

The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracey Chevalier

I started this book twice and never got beyond the first chapter. A book needs more than a famous painting on its cover to keep me reading; and the cover intrigued me enough to take the book home. Currently, the book is in the bag slated for the library donations and might face a reprieve if a commenter can tell me why I should try a third time.

Conquistador (alternate history) - S. M. Stirling

I loved this book from the start though it takes about 90 pages in before the story becomes really exciting. He has a nice lead-up into the action providing the backstory in easy doses. I am unable to provide a proper mini-review of this book because I never finished it; not because it failed to keep my interest. I had other pressing matters to attend to and never got back to the book. Once I have completed this book I will write a review, probably later in the year.

The following list of books have had full reviews done on them and are listed on the side bar under "Book Reviews".

Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard - Patrick O'Brian
Lady Chatterly's Lover - D. H. Lawrence
The Reincarnationist - M J Rose
Dissolution - C. J. Sansom
Dark Fire - C. J. Sansom
Vive Madame la Dauphine - Andre Romijn
The Memorist - M J Rose
Quantum Shift in the Global Brain - Ervin Laszlo

The following non-fiction books were partially read to provide information for my history and hiking posts on Canada.

The Penguin History of Canada - Robert Bothwell

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpacking by John Hart - To get an updated copy go here.

A Veteran of 1812: The Life of James FitzGibbon by Mary Agnes Fitzgibbon (1894)
The Battle of Queenston Heights - Edited by John Symons (1859)
The Life and Times of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. by D.R. Read, QC (1894)
The Makers of Canada - General Brock by Lady Edgar (1904)

The Illustrated History of Canada - Edited by Craig Brown

The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813 - Pierre Berton


bindu said...

Fingerprints of the Gods is a fascinating book. We also have a series of documentaries by Graham Hancock where he discusses his theories. Mind-boggling stuff!

Charles Gramlich said...

Your reading interests are as widely varied as mine. I can find just about anything of interest given the right mood.

Lana Gramlich said...

Fingerprints was interesting, for sure. I also have his "Underworld," although I haven't had the reading fortitude to even imagine starting it yet.
I started the Wheel of Time from the beginning & by book 5 or 6 I had enough. He was clearly just dragging it out at that point, milking it for all the money he could get. A shame, too. The beginning was really great!

RuneE said...

A varied list - The one about Sir Francis Drake being closest to my interests.

I'm an avid fan of Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord Of the rings, but what I have seen of the "copyists" generally makes me yawn.

You mention a book predicting recurring catastrophes based on a legendary old civilization (and not meant as an invention?). Having read both von Daniken and Velikovsky many years ago, I must say I place that kind of theories alongside UFO's and astrology.

Now, in "real" science fiction I used to read Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

In other words, I'm a dull chap :-)

Reader Wil said...

Thanks for all the reviews. Being the daughter of a sailor and the wife of an exsailor I am greatly interested in the voyages of Francis Drake!

Leigh Russell said...

Have to admit, I spend FAR more time writing than reading . . . not enough hours in the day.

David Cranmer said...

FINGERPRINTS sounds like a great read. My wife and I were watching the history channel and became immersed in Egypt and the pyramids. That was followed by a documentary on how advanced different aspects of the Roman empire really was. I will add this book to my TBR pile.

Teresa said...

Your description of the Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake sounds really interesting.

I was never able to get through The Lady and the Unicorn, either, but I really liked Conquistador.

Barbara Martin said...

Bindu, by keeping an open mind while reading others' theories can lead to a realization of our true history. Hancock's theories are easy to accept when one uses common sense.

Charles, reading many topics keeps the brain active and quick thinking.

Frank Baron said...

While cleaning out my mother-in-law's house after she passed away, I picked up a copy of Fingerprints. Haven't read it yet but I'll get to it one day.

I started reading Jordan's series when it came out. The first book blew me away and I couldn't wait for the 2nd - then the 3rd. About midway through the 4th he started losing me - I got the distinct sense he was padding this sucker out because his publisher was making more money than they expected. I stopped reading it altogether after book five.

Interesting list. :)

Barbara Martin said...

Lana, Piers Anthony has a long running series too: Xanth with 34 books, the next one to be published in 2010. Mr. Anthony has had an illustrious and long career. As long as he keeps writing, I will keep reading.

Another long running series I read is Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series plus the outshoots of Lord John Grey. Brilliant writer.

When I catch up on my other genre reading I will be returning to Book 7 of The Wheel of Time with anticipation as with each book Jordan tied up red herrings from previous books and introduces new ones to think about. There are multiple and complex subplots apart from the main one in this series. These I find intriguing and worth my time to continue reading.

Barbara Martin said...

RuneE, I listen to all sides of arguments and theories. Most of the history 'known' today about the ancient past is only theory. No one knows for sure.

As for Von Daniken and Velikovsky, I allow them their opinions, even if the current scientists disagree. The scientists and historians today use theories they cannot prove. Some feel threatened by interlopers. Such has been the history of mankind: if the powers that be don't like people coming up with ideas, they annihilate them in one way or another.

An avenue of predicting catastrophes not brought up in 'Fingerprints of the Gods' is by visions, and that I believe in. But that's another topic entirely.

Barbara Martin said...

Wil, the book on the Sir Francis Drake voyage is a wonderful read with added quotes from his travel journal on the voyage.

Leigh, I understand. Most of my reading occurs on public transportation going hither and yon, and in doctors' waiting rooms, to while the time away.

David, you will not be disappointed. It is a book that makes you think about the possibilities.

Barbara Martin said...

Teresa, there are so many good books available sometimes it is difficult to make a choice. I tend to like history even the theoretical kind.

Frank, I got the same impression with Jordan's series but as I have books 7 to 11 I will read them unless they become too bogged down.

The Graham Hancock material fascinates me because I am an avid Egyptian historical buff. I take everything I read with a grain of salt.

Thanks for dropping by.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

Oh, I love Tracy Chevalier and lady and the Unicron, I really did! And girl with the Pearl Earring too!!!!!!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oh, if only I could read in my sleep - not that I get much time for either!

When the weather is warm, I treat myself to perusing books on the front doorstep ... then I shall return to this post and choose!

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I tend to agree with you about the Lady and the Unicorn....the cover drew me in too, and I had seen those well known "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries in Paris in 2001...they have always fascinated me and I love their color, subject matter, design. I finished the book but I agree it is not particularly captivating. I remember bits of the story, but it did not stick with me.

I've just been reading a few of your recent posts. Thanks, by the way for the comment about the horses being washed over on Brian's blog...

Interesting similarity, in a way, to our home towns' names - Long Branch and Long Beach!


laughingwolf said...

oh wow... all of these are the kind i can lose myself in, for days at a time... they go on my list to attain asap... thx barbara :)

Barbara Martin said...

Raph, then I bid you good reading when the sun is in the zenith and that you not doze off.

Sara, perhaps I will give the Lady and the Unicorn a reprieve as I hoped there would be some revelation on a historical note.

Tony, if you choose the Robert Jordan series, I suggest not to read the volumes one after the other, as with ice cream, one becomes tired of it after awhile. Which is what happened with me after Book 6, but now after a couple of months break I am ready to return to Jordan's fantasy world.

RuneE said...

Barbara - You raise the question about what constitutes a scientific proof of a scientific theory. That is an entirely different debate. You cannot equate a "theory" based somebody's vision with a theory based on the the scientific method.

I'm sorry, but I'm handicapped by having been a scientist (of sorts :-) )