All posts by heidi.skarie@gmail.com

Review of Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum

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If you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, pick up The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour.  A friend recommended this book and I’m glad he did because it was an exciting and educational read.

L’Amour published his first novel in 1953 and every one of his over 120 books are still in print.  There are 300 million copies of his books worldwide.  He is one of the bestselling authors of modern times.  Forty-five of his novels have been made into films.

He is best known for capturing the spirit of the American West.  This novel, written in his later years, is a departure from those books. It takes place in the 12th century, starting out in France, crossing medieval Europe and the Russian steppes, and finally ending in Constantinople.

Young Mathurin Kerbouchard of Brittany is thrust into a violent, dangerous world when he returns from a fishing expedition and finds his mother murdered and his home burned to the ground.  He barely escapes with his life only to be captured and forced to be a galley slave.

In L’Amour’s usual style, Kerbouchard goes from one adventure to another as he sets off on a quest to find his father (who is reported to be killed at sea or sold into slavery) and revenge his mother. Kerbouchard is bold to a fault, trained by the Druids to have an amazing memory, a seeker of knowledge who can speak and write many languages, an unusual talent for the times.  He is skilled with a sword, but also relies on his wit as he works toward achieving his nearly impossible goals.

The book is broad in scoop and covers several years as Kerbouchard grows into manhood.  He faces life with courage and honor, making friends and enemies along the way.  He is a unique character whom the reader will remember long after they finish the book.  We see the 12th century world through Kerbouchard’s active, intelligent mind.  He travels from the dark, dirty cities in France where the Christian church forbids new ideas and books are rare, to the Moslem cities of Spain where books are plentiful and scholars are valued.

The book reads quickly, especially the first half, which is filled with one hair-raising adventure after another.  But it slows down in places where Kerbouchard, a brilliant scholar interested in different ideas and places, tells us the history of the city he’s traveled to and shares his philosophy of life with other scholars.

In his Author’s Notes section, L’ Amour said he was fascinated by this period of history.  He feels that our schools ignore two thirds of world.  “Of China, India and the Muslim world almost nothing is said, yet their contribution to our civilization was enormous, and they are now powers with which we must deal both today and tomorrow, and which it would be well for us to understand.

“One of the best means of introduction to any history is the historical novel.” p. 462

L’Amour planned to write two more books about Kerbouchard’s adventures; regrettably, he died before he completed them.

I was partly intrigued by the book because I also researched this area of the world for my book Annoure and the Dragon Ships.  My historical saga is set almost 400 hundred years earlier and takes the reader from Saxon England, to Viking Norway, to the Russian steppes.  It was interesting to see how the world had changed over those four centuries.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating, exciting adventure filled with treachery, violence, passion, love and friendship, check out The Walking Drum by best-selling author Louis L’Amour.

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Book review of Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh

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Book review of Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh

 

Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh is told in first person. Jake Mitchell begins his story by talking about missed opportunities and wonderful lives almost lived. “A life like mine.” We find out he’s at work at his dream job where he’s worked eight years. He set out to be rich and achieved his goal. “money was God.” But now business has dried up and he’s struggling to hold on. He leaves work to meet his best friend Adam at a café at Charing Cross. Sitting outside the café, is a woman he’s instantly attracted to and hopes to see again.

 

After this initial opening Jake goes back in time and tells us how he met Adam, and then about his family. Over the course of the book we learn of the lies he told and how, once they were told, he had to keep lying to keep his secrets. One poor decision led to another as Jake set out to build a “wonderful life”. At the end of chapter four he says, “Didn’t know then, in my enthusiastic youth, that every little action, choice and deed had a consequence.”

 

What makes this book interesting is how we see the world through Jake’s eyes and hear his inner thoughts. We learn why he lied and what led to the destructive decisions he made.

 

The book was an enjoyable, quick read with a haunting quality to it. The story twists and turns in interesting ways and has a surprise ending. I reminded of the recent movie Gone Girl in that things are always what they appear.

 

I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers. It’s well written with a strong plot and well developed characters.

 

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Book review of The Immortal Life of Piu Piu: A Magical Journey Exploring the Mystery of Life after Death (Dance Between Worlds Book 1)

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African author Bianca Gubalke has written an uplifting visionary fiction novel about the journey of soul. It started out in the first chapter with Anata, a soul in the inner realms, talking to an elder about her next life. She’s picked a hard life for her spiritual advancement in a small village in Western Cape coast of South Africa. A place that is beautiful with numerous plant species, animals, mountains, and ocean.

 

The elder warned Anata that her memory of who she really is as soul will disappear so she can create a new life. She won’t remember her true home but will search for it.

In the second chapter, we met a little girl named Pippa and MadMax (a delightful talking cat). They heard a peep and find a little gosling on the ground. Pippa brought it into the house, determined to take care of the small, helpless creature. Thus begins the tale of Pippa, MadMax and her goose Piu Piu.

The story explored the loving relationship between humans and animals and included many beautiful photographs of plants and animals.

The novel had a powerful message because it delved into the spiritual realms and the longing of soul to return home in a time when many baby boomers are wondering what happens after they die.

In places, the story of Piu Piu, the goose, reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Both birds long for freedom.

The book also reminded me of Oversoul Seven by Jean Roberts, which is about Oversoul Seven who runs three bodies at once in different times and places as part of his education.

I had been exposed to the idea that soul takes part in choosing their next life in Dr. Michael Newton’s work Journey of Souls and Life Between Lives. Dr. Newton hypnotized people to take them back to their childhood so they could heal. Once when he hypnotized someone they ended up in the inner realm where soul goes between lives. After that Dr. Newton took many people back to their life between lives on earth and asked soul about their experience there.

In the Immortal Life of Piu Piu I was fascinated to see how Bianca was able to weave together the idea of soul living more than one life and choosing that life based on what that soul needed to learn for its spiritual growth. I especially enjoyed the action-filled second half of the book that shares the backstory of Pippa’s parents during a raging forest fire.

The end of the book was a treat for it nicely tied up the whole book and brought clarity to the story.

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy visionary fiction. You might find yourself wondering if this is simply a magical world where animals talk, have human emotions and past life memories or if there is a golden thread of truth that can help us in our own journey home.

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you have any memories of a past life?  Do you think we decide what our next life will be?

Here is a wonderful book trailer of the novel.

 

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Book Review of The Passion of Marie Romanov by Laura Rose

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The Passion of Marie Romanov by Laura Rose is written as a diary and has the intimacy of Ann Frank’s diary in the book Diary of Ann Frank. Both novels are about young women in dire circumstances during a time of war. Laura Rose used Marie’s actual diaries to give the reader insights into her character and life. The story opens at the point where Marie’s father, Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, is forced to abdicate.

The story moves between Marie’s current life of hardships and her memories of her former life of privilege as she recalls all the wonderful times her family had together.

In the beginning of the story Marie draws you into her world as she describes in detail the beauty of the palace and her love for her four siblings who are all seriously ill with measles. She is devoted to her mother as together they nurse her siblings. Marie and her mother wonder why the tsar hasn’t returned home or at least contacted his family. It’s winter and Marie lives in increasing fear of the large mobs that could attack the palace, of her siblings dying, and of her father being executed.

Then Marie falls ill with the measles and her own suffering seems to reflect the suffering of the Russian people. Millions were wounded, captured or died in WW 1 and citizens at home suffered from poverty and starvation.

The former Tsar is finally allowed to return to the palace where his family now is being held under house arrest. During their imprisonment, they are moved to Siberia and then to a house in the Ural Mountains.

By the spring of 1918 Russia is in the midst of a civil war. Imprisoned inside the house, Marie longs for a love like her parents have and for freedom for herself and her family.

Instead, in July of 1918 the family is brutally killed. The author chose to describe their murders and the disposals of the bodies in vivid detail through the eyewitness account of a young soldier. The descriptions are as chilling as a horror novel. The gruesome ending seemed unnecessary and some readers may choose to not read that section.

The book could have benefitted from more details about the history of the time to give the reader insights as to why Nicholas II had to abdicate and what led to the family being killed. Marie was nineteen by the end of the story and should have had some awareness of the plight of the Russian people.

Overall the book was worth reading to learn more about the fall of the Russian Empire in a very personal way.

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Book Review of The Bears and I by Robert Franklin Leslie

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The Bears and I

The Bears and I

A friend gave my husband The Bears and I.  I picked it up to see what it was about and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

The story is set in the wilderness of British Columbia where Bob, the author, is panning for gold for the summer when an old sow bear leaves him with triplet orphaned black bear cubs.  Bob’s heart goes out to the small creatures that he describes as the size of teddy bears and he decides to raise them until they are old enough to survive on their own.  The cubs end up sharing his cabin. They even sleep with him in his sleeping bag.

What makes this story remarkable is the amazing bond of love that develops between Bob and these three bear cubs and the insights we gain into bears.  After reading this book I don’t think I’ll ever look at them the same.  The bear cubs each had a distinct personality and enjoyed playing tricks on each other. They also had a wonderful spirit of fun and adventure.

As the cubs grew older they also learned to hunt together and to protect each other. They were highly intelligent creatures and soon learned their names and to respond to simple voice commands and gestures.  Like when there was danger Bob would say tree and point to the tree and they would run up it.

The book is also an exciting adventure story especially in the first half as Bob tries to keep these three cubs alive against all the dangers of the wilderness including predators that eat bear cubs.  There is also a devastating fire that sweeps across the forest they live in and a harrowing journey by canoe deeper into the wilderness with a winter’s worth of supplies.

The author vividly describes nature with its plants, flowers, birds, animals and changes in season in such detail that I felt I was right there with him every step of the way.

It helped that I’ve had enough of my own experience in the wilderness to relate to his.  I’ve been backpacking in the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains in the United States and in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve also been canoeing in the Boundary waters wilderness of the US and Canada.  I’ve experienced having a bear come to my campsite at night and breaking the branch of a tree where we’d carefully tied up our food bag ten feet above the ground.  I’ve also paddled a canoe across rough lakes in the rain with high winds and chopping waves.

I could also relate to Bob’s winter experiences with deep snow and long months of cold weather as I live just across the Canadian border in Minnesota.

Moreover, the book is enjoyable because the writing is excellent with detailed descriptions, original metaphors and good insights into life.  Bob wrestles with questions like how much of the wilderness should be a game refuge or park and how to do we protect wild animals.  Bob also ponders the questions of why animals live by killing one another and why there are forest fires, which wipe out so many of the creatures that live there.

Here is a link to the movie trailer:

http://video.disney.com/watch/the-bears-and-i-trailer-4beae8d9badd4dc60c94e3f9

Here is a link to John Denver singing a song he wrote for the movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4aVEbHR8UE

 

 

 

 

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Book Review of Dream Yourself Awake

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Dream Yourself Awake

Dream Yourself Awake; One Woman’s Journey to Uncover Her Divine Purpose through Dreams by Darlene Montgomery

Years ago Montgomery realized her dreams related to her waking life and revealed recurring themes and lessons. The images and feelings she began to see formed a map that led to her purpose as Soul. Montgomery states, “Dreams tell a story about Soul’s everlasting wish to journey back home to God.” (p. 18)

The basic premise of the book is that if you have a yearning to know your purpose in life, Spirit will let Soul see its greater destiny and clear away illusions. The law of growth drives Soul on.

Each chapter begins with an insightful quote. Then Montgomery shares a dream, waking dream or inner experience and gives her interpretation of it as she sheds light on the spiritual side of what she’s experiencing.

In the sixth chapter, The Messengers of Life, she quotes from Marianne Williamson: “Ultimately, it is not our credentials but our commitment to a higher purpose that creates our effectiveness in the world.” (p. 28)

In this chapter Montgomery explains that Divine Spirit guides us to experiences that remind us of agreements we made before we were born into this life. Messengers in life may come to us as teachers, friends, movies and books. The people around us show us qualities inside ourselves and help us figure out our life’s mission.

Montgomery also shares what she learned about her career as a writer. In one dream, Montgomery meets Oprah Winfrey. She realized Oprah’s dream appearance intended to awaken her “to my own potential as a voice of change in the world” (p. 11) In the same chapter she says, “To write a book is to open a door literally into another world. Every work of art leaves an impression, which shapes the thoughts of others and more importantly their dreams.” (p. 13)

In Dream Yourself Awake, Montgomery takes the reader on an intimate journey. Through Montgomery’s experience, we see our own fears, failings and limiting ideas. We also see our ability to grow, learn, overcome these limitations and move into a place of love, abundance and gratitude. We see how we are divine sparks of God and how our dreams are here to teach us, give us truth and help us deal with challenges. When we pay attention, dreams will tell us about our higher goals and we can wake up, as Montgomery did. We can become strong spiritual beings, aware that we are children of God, knowing we are powerful, loving beings.

While writing this blog post, I had a waking dream experience at the end of my yoga class. The instructor said she had a quote to share and I knew it was related to this post. The quote is from the inspiring author, Marianne Williamson:

“Relationships are our primary teacher. They are the context in which we either grow into God consciousness, or deny ourselves and others the opportunity to do so.”

Have you had dreams, waking dreams or inner experience that helped you wake up to a higher truth about yourself on your journey home to God? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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Readings on Where Rivers Converge

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COME IN AND LISTEN ON SATURDAY THE 10TH

If you live in the area, I think you’d enjoy hearing local authors reading their contributions to the newly published anthology Where Rivers Converge

Saturday, September 10 1:00-3:00pm Waconia Library (WC Magazine Reading Room) Live Read of Carver County area Library Writer’s Group will feature picks from their first anthology edition “Where Rivers Converge”. Come support your favorite authors.

Waconia Library 217 S. Vine St. 952-442-4714

Authors will also probably have some of their other books on display as well.

I’ll be reading my fiction piece, “Interrupted Honeymoon”.

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The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin

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The Long-shining Water

The Long-shining Water

My sister gave me The Long-Shining Waters as a holiday gift. She attended a book event hosted by the author and snagged me a signed copy.

The book takes place on Lake Superior. Since my family has a vacation home there, I was especially interested in reading the book. My sister thought of me because one character in the book is a Native American woman who has powerful dreams. I’m interested in both Native Americans and dreams and even wrote a novel about a Native American woman called Red Willow’s Quest.

Photo of Lake Superior near our house

Photo of Lake Superior near our house

The book explores the lives of three women who lived on Lake Superior in three different time periods. Grey Rabbit is an Ojibwe woman who lives with her husband, two sons and mother-in-law in 1622. She has a series of frightening dreams that cause her to fear for her sons during winter when food is scarce.

Berit lives in 1902 with her Norwegian husband who is a fisherman. Their home is isolated, leaving Berit with no friends. She faces a terrible loss and struggles to survive.

Nora is a modern woman in 2000 who owns a bar. Her life comes undone and she’s faced with a damaged relationship with her adult daughter and makes a journey around Lake Superior.

A fourth character is Lake Superior with its storms, waves and moods.

Prose poetry is interspersed between the chapters, setting a feeling and mood with detailed descriptions of nature. In the beginning is an Ojibwe hunting song:

 

The eagle, the eagle

Patient like him

From the rocks on high

You will perceive a lake. . .

 

The narrative rotates between these three women’s lives with each chapter changing from one woman to another. The writer has a background in short stories and the book felt like three separate short stories mixed together with little connecting them but Lake Superior. I got caught up in Berit’s story and skipped that chapters the pertained to Grey Rabbit and Nora then went back and read them.

The story is well-researched and the author was funded by two Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships Grants and by the McKnight Foundation. The author was also the recipient of the Loft Mentor Series Award. The book won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize.

The descriptions in this book are exquisite. Here is an example from the opening. “The cold wind off the lake sets the pines in motion, sets their needled tops drawing circles in the sky. It cuts through boughs and they rise and fall, dropping snow that pits the white surface below. The hardened leaves rattle and sail, and the limbs of the paper birch sway, holding the sky in heavy wedges.” p. 1.

The book examines the three women’s desire for meaning in life when faced with challenges and tragedy. If you’re looking for a book with rich, detailed prose that explores human emotions and universal needs, check out Sosin’s The Long-Shining Waters.

Lake Superior near our house

Lake Superior near our house

How important do you think the power of place is to most stories? In the book and recent movie The Martian, place was central to the story.   Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird had to take place in the southern United States. What other stories can you think of where place is important to the story? If you’re a writer, have you ever thought of location being a voice or character?

 

 

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Annoure and the Dragon Ships by Heidi Skarie

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Facebook profile photo 600x600Author Notes about Annoure and the Dragon Ships.

I’m excited to finally see Annoure and the Dragon Ships make its entrance into the world of literature. Annoure and Thorstein are finally getting a chance to share their story.

I carefully researched this period of history and did my best to make it accurate. Although the Norsemen had runes for writing on stone and labeling things, they didn’t have books that would have left a more detailed picture of their lives.

Much of what we know about them has comes from archeologist and the people who they invaded who didn’t portray them in a favorable light.

We do know the Norsemen’s longships were an important part of their culture. They were fast, sleek and shallow-drafted, which allowed them to travel up rivers and come into shallow water.

In writing the book I used some Norse words to make the story more authentic. Since the Norse language was before the time of dictionaries, the names given to words varies, as does the spelling of those words. I chose to take the most commonly used words and their spellings of the words such as “sonr” for son.

Even the word “Viking” is a more modern term to refer to the Norsemen. They didn’t call themselves Vikings. They said would say they were going “a-viking” when they planned a trading expedition or went on a raid.

The Viking Age began with an attack on the monastic settlement of Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast on England in Northumbria.

My story starts a year later when five dragon ships sailed up the River Thyne and attacked the St. Paul’s Church at Jarrow. They burned the two monasteries, killed or kidnapped the priest and monks, and fought the soldiers and villagers who tried to stop them. Their war leader was killed during the attack.

As the Norsemen left, a terrible storm arose and two of the dragon ships sank. The Norse warriors who survived the shipwrecks swam to shore and were then killed by the villagers and soldiers.

Historians disagree as to where the Norsemen who attacked Jarrow came from. For the purpose of my book I chose to have them come from what is now known as Norway.

While researching the book, I traveled to England and visited St. Paul’s Church. The church is still in use after over a thousand years. Beside it are the remains of the two monasteries that were destroyed in the Viking raid.

Nearby was an exhibit of a reconstructed medieval village complete with live animals. I was delighted to see what a village would have looked like back then with its thatched-roofed houses and twisted-branched fences.

Later I made a trip to Norway with my husband who is a one-hundred-percent Norwegian. I wanted to visit Rosendal where Thorstein’s family homestead was located on the west coast of Norway, an area famous for its fjords.

We flew into Stavanger where we rented a car and started our journey. We drove through a tunnel cut out of bedrock under a bay, traveled by car ferry, and drove on narrow mountain roads though some of the most beauty country in the world. Obviously the area has changed in over a thousand years yet the mountains, ocean, the nearby island (where Thorstein’s neighbors lived) and fjord are the same. Being there helped me write more realistically about the area.

I hope the story depict the Norsemen in way that shows their strengths and weaknesses and gives you a glimpse into their lives.

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5 Reasons to Write Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

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Writing in the science fiction (SF) and fantasy genres is fun and exciting. The following are five good reasons to write in these genres.

  1. You love to read science fiction and/or fantasy and enjoy the genre(s). In order to write a good story you need to be well-read in the story type you’re writing.
Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

I’ve been inspired by book series as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and George Lucas’ Star Wars. When JK Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy series came out, I read them as they were published. More recently I read Stephanie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy and Annn Agurre’s Sirantha Jax series.

  1. You like creating worlds. In SF and fantasy novels, you can build your
    Grimspace

    Grimspace

    own world. In fantasy you can create elaborate, imaginative worlds as Tolkien did. In SF you can create another galaxy where space travel is common as in Star Wars. You can explore life on a spaceship, a space station or a planet in another galaxy.

  2. You like inventing characters that are unique and unusual. They could be other-world aliens, peoples with unusual psychic powers, dragons, vampires, wizards, fairies, dwarfs, or talking animals.

In my Star Rider series, I invented a large planet that ate mammals (like a Venus flytrap), large butterflies that bite and forests with trees so large you can run from the branch of one tree to another, traveling like squirrels. I also had aliens with green skin and gills.

  1. You like exploring new ideas, customs, religions, politics and philosophies. You can
    Hunger Games

    Hunger Games

    write about how these different things influence the people and their world. You can create utopian worlds or a dystopian world such as in Hunger Games. My Star Rider series takes place in another solar system in a time of interplanetary war. My characters fight for political and religious freedom.

  2. Another important reason to write in these genres is that
    Harry Potter

    Harry Potter

    science fiction and fantasy are popular. Avid fans attend science fiction conventions. Readers who like SF and fantasy series are often devoted to the authors and will continue to read their new books as they are released. Think of the popularity of Harry Potter, The Twilight Saga, Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.

So if you enjoy the genre of science fiction and/or fantasy, like world-building, love inventing unique characters, want to explore new ideas and want to ensure a dedicated readership for your works, try your hand at SF and/or fantasy (or try combining them when writing your next book or short story).

 

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