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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arthur C. Clarke: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Eckhart

I am very excited to welcome Elizabeth Eckhart back to A Bookish Affair. Today, she will be talking about Arthur C. Clarke, one of the giants of Science Fiction!







Arthur C. Clarke and His Most Profound Predictions

In a writing career that spanned six decades, Arthur C. Clarke etched his name into the worlds of both science fiction writing and science fact. His most iconic work, 2001: A Space Odyssey became a 1968 Stanley Kubrick directed film classic, with Clarke writing the script. The huge popularity of this work eventually led to three subsequent efforts looking at the Odyssey in 2010, 20161 and 3001.

That original work may actually be supplanted someday by the remarkable insight into the future that Clarke displayed when it came to the future of technology. Below are five areas where his clairvoyance was something to behold:

In May of 1945, Clarke foresaw global communication entities using space satellites, such as satellite internet, television, and the recently popularized satellite radio. The satellites would also be capable of sending rockets into space. Both would become realities within 15-20 years. Clarke’s predictions came just weeks after the end of the European portion of World War II, where he believed that the technology advances by German scientists could be used for more serene purposes than world domination.

Other thinkers derived inspiration from Clarke’s work. Hoard Hughes began work with NASA that yielded the Telstar program in the sixties, which yielded the world’s first transatlantic television broadcast via satellite. That venture ultimately yielded not only satellite tv (details here: http://www.space.com/19756-telstar.html), but also satellite internet (more info here: hughesnetplans.com/satellite-internet). But not only did Clarke help establish the conceptual groundwork for satellite internet as early as 1945, but he also managed to predict the role that the internet would play in a few decades. During a 1974 broadcast on Australian television, Clarke stated that by the year 2000, people would have at their fingertips the capability to do their banking online or make reservations without needing a phone. In truth, the Internet had its origins in the late 1960’s, but it would take nearly another quarter century before the general public would be able to use it in any real capacity. Both of those items Clarke noted were available for much of society 26 years later.

In that same TV appearance in Australia, Clarke made his comments in a room filled with large computers. He indicated that by the time the year 2000 arrived, people would have access to their own private computer that could not only perform the aforementioned tasks, but would also be able to allow for communication with others. In the latter case, that vision foresaw the arrival of such things as e-mail and other message-related aspects that allow a person with their own computer a wider array of opportunities.

And while it might seem impressive that Clarke managed to predict that the technological interfaces themselves would become more compact, would you believe that he had predicted the iPad (not by name, mind you). One decade before predicting the internet, Clarke appeared on a BBC program related to the New York World's Fair and stated that by the turn of the century, people would be able to be in instant contact with others, wherever they may be. During the litigious battle between Apple and Samsung over who created iPhone technology, Samsung attempted to claim that the concept evolved from the Newspads used in his famed novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. One portion of the book actually describes space travelers heading away from earth while being able to look at any newspaper headline, something the iPhone has made commonplace.

The need for traveling to an office either nearby or across the world was something that Clarke’s 1964 comments indicated would be eliminated. Saying that people would be able to do business wherever they wanted is something that’s come to pass. The best evidence comes from the huge growth in people working from their own home, as well as the rapid growth of videoconferencing. In that situation, businesses have no need to transport workers long distances for meetings that can be handled in their own board rooms over a widescreen device.

While Clarke’s predictions didn’t all come true (such as bio-engineered super chimpanzees which sound more than a little terrifying), the scope of his accurate projections are enough to recognize him for his brilliant contributions to the future.

About the author:

Elizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment and film blogger for Directstartv.com, who finds nothing more compelling than a good story, no matter its medium.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reality Strikes!

I have really been trying to get myself lost in books recently. I just want a book that totally takes my mind off of dwelling on whatever I am currently dealing with. Don't you ever feel like that?

I have been feeling pretty good with regard to being pregnant so last week was sort of a blow. Because I am having twins and even more so because they are identical twins, my pregnancy is considered high risk and I go to the doctor a lot; a lot as in every two weeks to a specialist on top of my regular OB appointments. Being a natural worrier, I appreciate that I am being watched so closely. I like that I get to see my girls every two weeks. Last week, my husband and I went to yet another specialist appointment. The girls are fine. They continue to be ridiculously active. The downside is that my body is finally starting to strain a little bit from carrying twins.

I haven't been put on bed rest but I am only supposed to be going to work where I am supposed to sit all day and then come home and doing nothing but put my feet up. I am not good at this whole not moving thing. Nothing will make you want to jump up and be active like someone telling you that you are not supposed to be moving much at all! I go back to the specialist at the end of this week to see what's going on.

I was pretty upset last week. I am only 24 weeks along so the thought of the babies coming soon is so scary to me. I know that the doctors are being super careful with me and it does not seem like we are to the point where they are super, super concerned; we're still at the watchful stage.

I am trying to take it easy and to keep my mind off of worrying, a daunting task for someone whose default often seems to be worry.

On the upside, we went to the Norfolk, VA area this past weekend to celebrate the birthdays of my little cousins. I was super fun at the party as I was relegated to the couch where I could kick my feet up and simply watch the party. It was so much fun to see them!

As an added bonus, we have a friend that my husband knows from college that does photography in that area. She is fantastic. Check more of her work out here on her Facebook page! I love her work and was very excited that she could take some maternity photos for us!

Here is one of our sneak peeks!:






I love this picture so much!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: The World at Night by Alan Furst

Title: The World at Night
Author: Alan Furst
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: January 2002
Source: Borrowed from a friend






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Paris, 1940. The civilized, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson is derailed by the German occupation of Paris, but Casson learns that with enough money, compromise, and connections, one need not deny oneself the pleasures of Parisian life. Somewhere inside Casson, though, is a stubborn romantic streak. When he’s offered the chance to take part in an operation of the British secret service, this idealism gives him the courage to say yes. A simple mission, but it goes wrong, and Casson realizes he must gamble everything—his career, the woman he loves, life itself. Here is a brilliant re-creation of France—its spirit in the moment of defeat, its valor in the moment of rebirth."

My Two Cents:

In "The World at Night," we are introduced to Jean Casson, a man whose life as a filmmaker in Europe during World War II is upended by how much the world is changing. Casson knows that he must adapt or get left behind so adapt he does. While I like historical fiction, I usually do not read a lot of historical noir or historical mystery like this book is but after having Furst's books highly recommended to me by a friend, I knew that I wanted to give these books a try and I am very happy that I did!

Jean Casson is a normal, everyday man who gets himself into some extraordinary circumstances in this book. He is asked to join a covert operation with the British, which he knows may put his life in grave danger. He is intrigued though and driven to help the cause. I really liked Casson as a character. Furst adds a lot of character detail and back story to make Casson feel really real, which I liked.

One thing that I also really liked about this book and the other two books that I have read by Furst so far is that Furst knows how to create atmosphere, which is a real treat for historical fiction lovers who really want to be swept away by world building and armchair traveling. What is most impressive to me is that Furst is able to put a lot of detail into this book without running up the page number tally. Every small thing adds to the overall feeling of the book and makes for an engaging story!


 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

France Book Tours: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

Title: Rodin's Lover
Author: Heather Webb
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Plume
Publish Date: January 27, 2015
Source: France Book Tours


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like strong characters.
  • You're interested in art.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness."

My Two Cents:

"Rodin's Lover" is the latest release from Heather Webb, author of "Becoming Josephine." It is a historical fiction take on Camille Claudel, a woman who dreams of being a famous sculptor. Unfortunately for her, she lives during a time where women are not supposed to be artists and her mother is more interested in making a good love match with an appropriate gentleman. Enter Auguste Rodin, the famous sculptor. Camille finds him endlessly intriguing and falls under his spell. It is not easy to be with him though! This is a passionate tale of love and art that I ate up!

I really enjoyed this story. I was excited to read it after having read "Becoming Josephine." Much of what I liked about that story was present in "Rodin's Lover." Webb spins a great story about art and love and the way that they intersect with each other. It is apparent that Webb spent a great deal of time researching to bring Camille and Auguste as well the rest of the characters to life. I also really loved the setting of Paris. Camille's Paris is a quickly evolving world filled with artists and thinkers

The characters really drive this story and they pulled me into the narrative quickly. These are characters that you want to follow because Webb writes them in such a way that you really care about them. Camille especially felt real to me. Before reading this book, I don't think that I knew a single thing about her. She is such a great character, definitely one that is well ahead of her time. I also really liked the love story between Auguste and Camille. It's full of heat, desire, and storminess. I loved reading about how things evolved between them. I did wish there was a little more about Rodin himself in the book. The story really focuses on Camille alone and Camille and Auguste together but not really on Auguste alone.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. My fellow historical fiction fans will find so much to love about this book. I am anxiously awaiting Webb's next release.



Giveaway:

There is a tour-wide giveaway for this one! 

 
Entry-Form

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, January 19
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Eclectictales
Tuesday, January 20
Review + Giveaway at Unshelfish
Wednesday, January 21
Review + Interview at Jorie Loves A Story
Review + Giveaway at Indiereadergirl0329
Thursday, January 22
Review + Giveaway at Musings of a Writer and Unabashed Francophile
Friday, January 23
Review + Giveaway at Writing the Renaissance
Saturday, January 24
Review + Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Sunday, January 25
Review + Giveaway at The Sabbatical Chef
Monday, January 26
Review + Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, January 28
Review + Giveaway at Words And Peace

Friday, January 23, 2015

Burning Embers Cover Reveal and Guest Post

Hello! Today, I wanted to share you the new cover for Burning Embers by Hannah Fielding, a book that I reviewed in 2013.

Here is the gorgeous new cover:

Isn't it pretty?





And here is a guest post from the author, Hannah Fielding:

Three reasons I wrote my novel, Burning Embers
With my novel Burning Embers, there was a sense that the book had to be written; that I had to sit down and put pen to paper to bring the book to life. Here are the three most compelling reasons that drove me to spend so many hours sitting in my garden and sitting in my writing room to create this romance novel.

The dream of writing
The rambling house I grew up in was built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. My bedroom was light and airy and its three windows commanded the most breathtaking views of the ever-changing sea – up to the harbour in the distance – with glowing sunsets and romantic moonlit nights over a scintillating ocean. These spectacular tableaux made my imagination run wild and I would dream of princes that flew in from faraway lands on their magic carpets, of princesses dressed in gowns made of sunrays and of moonbeams, and of dragons lurking in those vast blue depths, rising from the waves that crashed against the rocks underneath my windows. These and many more stories I used to relate to my half-Italian, half-French governess. And so was born the dream of becoming a writer, and it is a dream that has stayed with me ever since.

The setting
Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. 
The seed of the ideas was sown many years ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animals, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic settings and colourful vistas. (See http://www.hannahfielding.net/?cat=7 for some translations of Leconte de Lisle poems.)
Then later on, I went on holiday to Kenya with my parents and I met our family friend Mr Chiumbo Wangai, who often used to visit us. He was a great raconteur and told me extensively about his beautiful country, its tribes, its traditions and its customs. I was enthralled. What a beautiful, wild, colourful, passionate country in which to set a love story!

The story
The idea for Burning Embers came to me one night at my home in France. I couldn’t sleep, and I was sitting up in my bed gazing out at the Mediterranean, watching the silver full moon shimmering on the sea. Then an ocean liner, all lit up, glided past. It was such a romantic sight that I found myself wondering about the lives of the people on board that ship. Who were they? Where were they going? And into my head walked the heroine of Burning Embers, Coral, a beautiful, naïve young woman returning home to the land of her birth. I grabbed the notebook beside my bed and began to write, and the skeleton of the first chapter of the novel took place – Coral alone on the deck of a ship grieving for her father and a love that was destroyed, and an enigmatic man, the alluring Rafe, who offers her the classic comfort of strangers.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

TLC Book Tours Review: Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht

Title: Migratory Animals
Author: Mary Helen Specht
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publish Date: January 20, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like stories about sisters.
  • You don't mind tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiancé without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the crippling genetic disease that slowly killed their mother.

As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly’s diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: an ambitious life of love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she’s always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, each of her friends has faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they’d always planned for themselves."


My Two Cents:

Flannery believes that she will spend the rest of her life abroad. She is happy there, maintaining distant connections with her family. She only goes home when her vibrant younger sister, Molly, is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, which is the same disease that took their mother. Flannery knows that she must give up her wants to go home to the sister who never left. This story is about different coping mechanisms in the face of the unknown.

This is a powerful debut that I enjoyed. Flannery and Molly's relationship is at the center of the book but they are surrounded by friends that are dealing with Molly's diagnosis as well. Each character has suffered their own heartbreak. It's not always a romantic heartbreak; it could be heartbreak over a broken family or a career that once started out so promising that has changed into something else. These characters are pulled together by Molly's illness and each of them faces it in a different way.

I really wanted to know more about these characters outside of the group. Each one very much has their own identity within the group that seems to limit them in some way. The book is really about how they relate to each other but not really to anyone outside of the group, which made me feel in some places that I was being held at arm's length.

Overall, I really enjoyed the writing in this book. It is the best part of the book. There were some really beautiful turns of phrase in this book that I really enjoyed. This is a good debut! 



Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, January 20th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, January 21st: Read Her Like and Open Book
Thursday, January 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Friday, January 23rd: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, January 26th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, January 27th: Book Loving Hippo
Wednesday, January 28th: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, February 2nd: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, February 3rd: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, February 4th: Books and Things
Tuesday, February 10th: Tina Says …
Wednesday, February 11th: Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, February 12th: Books and Bindings
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Title: Unbecoming
Author: Rebecca Scherm
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: January 22, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like a book with a lot of twists and turns.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely."

My Two Cents:

In "Unbecoming," all Grace has wanted is somewhere to belong. She thought she had found it once with the family of the boy that she loved until a crime stole it all away. Grace fled from everything she knew in Texas. She now calls herself Julie and works in a store where she repairs antiques. She still hasn't gotten away from a life of crime but she is hopeful that the crime of her former life doesn't come back to haunt her. Grace quickly learns that you cannot run from the past.

Billed as a psychological thriller, this book is much quieter that that genre bills it. Grace was once in love with Riley, one of the guys who got in trouble in an art heist crime that Grace was involved in. She is in love with Alls, the other guy who took the fall. Grace could never fully pull herself away from Riley. Grace spends much of the book waiting for the proverbial books to come tumbling down.

The book is split between Grace growing up in Texas and Julie living in France in the present day. I liked seeing the story of Grace's childhood as it gave me a chance to see what happened to get Grace to the point of turning into Julie. Although we get to see her story, I don't feel like we ever get to really know Grace and how she thinks. I wanted to be able to connect with her more throughout the book. I really wanted to understand her. Overall, I thought the premise of the book sounded interesting and I will be interested to see what the author does in the future.  



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