Last semester, I thought that I had more of a handle on things. I took 4 classes, had a minimal number of things to read, and my research papers weren’t quite so scary. This semester, I’m taking 5 classes, all upper-level history ones, and I have a TON of reading. And writing. And researching. And while I love all of those things, I’m starting to feel a bit burned out and brain-dead. Thankfully, there are only 3 weeks of classes left in the semester, followed by a week of finals, and then I’m done (kind of) until the end of August when things kick into high-gear again.
And in case you’re wondering about that “kind of” listed above? I have to take the GRE this summer so that I can apply to the Master’s program in the fall. Applications aren’t technically due until next February, but I want to get a jump on things, and I know that I won’t have as much time to study for it, let alone take it, when I’m in classes five (yes, five) days a week in the fall. Whoever decided to schedule all of the art history courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays needs a stern talking to.
But, before you begin to think that this semester has been all work and no play – no, wait, I take that back – that’s how it’s pretty much been – I did compete in a billiards tournament last weekend in the U of Akron game room. Despite not having time to play since October, I managed to impress even myself and place third in the women’s division. I even got a trophy:
Sometime after I’m finished with the 8 papers that I have due this month (9 if you count the draft of one that’s due on Monday) I’ll catch up on all of the book reviews that I have planned. But, until then, I’m going to be crazy.
Are you ready for a beach read in February? For those of you who are (like me) suffering through the remainder of winter, Jackie Collins’ latest book, The Power Trip, may be just enough to warm you up.
The plot has all of the intrigue, glamour and glitz that you’d expect from a Jackie Collins novel. Here’s a quick summary, courtesy of Amazon.com, who can sum it up better than me, since I so badly want to give away the ending – but won’t!
“A luxurious yacht in the Sea of Cortez, a birthday cruise for one of the world’s most beautiful women and an invitation no one can refuse. In The Power Trip you will meet Aleksandr Kasianenko, a billionaire Russian oligarch, as he sets sail on The Bianca. You’ll meet his sexy supermodel girlfriend, whom The Bianca is named after, and five dynamic, powerful, and famous couples invited on the yacht’s maiden voyage: Hammond Patterson, a driven Senator, and his lovely but unhappy wife, Sierra; Cliff Baxter, a charming, never-married movie star, and his ex-waitress girlfriend, Lori; Taye Sherwin, a famous black UK footballer and his interior designer wife, Ashley; Luca Perez, a male Latin singing sensation with his older decadent English boyfriend, Jeromy; and Flynn, a maverick journalist with his Asian renegade female friend, Xuan. You will also meet Russian mobster, Sergei Zukov, a man with a grudge against Aleksandr. And Sergei’s Mexican beauty queen girlfriend, Ina, whose brother, Cruz, is a master pirate with orders to hold The Bianca and its illustrious rota of guests for ransom.”
The characters are fabulous, the setting is droolworthy, and the plot is nothing short of fast-paced excitement. I couldn’t put it down, and I doubt that you will either.
The Power Trip by Jackie Collins went on sale earlier today at booksellers everywhere, including Amazon.com. Whether you want to read it now or wait for warmer weather is up to you.
(Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Power Trip by Jackie Collins from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own, and for more information, please check out my disclosure policy.)
Making history facts entertaining can be tough – trust me on that one. However, in The Jericho River, David Carthage manages to do just that. Here’s his take on things:
I looked at the history of Western Civilization and of its Middle Eastern parents, and I asked, “Where’s the action?” “Where are the events that do the most to shape our society today?” Then I threw in another choice factor. “Which societies do readers already know and enjoy but want to explore?” You couldn’t offer a fantasy about our civilization’s history, for instance, without a stop in
ancient Egypt. Without mummies and priestesses and pyramids, the story’s only half-told.
The result is a blend of societies meant to capture both our imagination and our history. The hero’s quest takes him through seventeen
different realms, including Sumer, Babylon, Hebrew Judea, Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, Medieval France, and Enlightenment England. He meets rulers and slaves and warriors and mythical creatures from each. And by following his
adventures, we get a feel for the flavor and magic of each.
Of course, there are important societies left out. I’d love to have included a chapter about the Hittites, for instance, who dominated Turkey for much of the Bronze Age. And I’d have loved a stop at Carthage (my namesake), Celtic Northern Europe, and Assyria. But I had to make some sacrifices, or the book would’ve been too long.
Why teach history through fiction — what are you hoping to accomplish?
I’m hoping to show readers that history is an adventure, as good as any story on the fantasy shelf. In fact, history is better because it’s real. “You can’t make this stuff up,” as they say. History truly offers tales of kings and warriors, noble ladies and cheeky slaves, and magic (or at least belief in magic). I’m trying to break the association between history and boring memorization–between “academic work” and exciting stories of the past.
I’m trying to teach history, by tapping into the part of the brain that retains plots from Harry Potter and Star Wars. I think that if you
bring out the fun and magic, readers will remember history, and read it for fun.
Tons! I wrote and revised the book over the course of almost ten years. If I had a dollar for every hour, I suspect I’d be quite wealthy.
The basic outline actually didn’t require much research. Before I set pen to paper, I had a sense of the flow of Western Civilization’s
history–and of its parent societies in the ancient Middle East. That came from years of reading for pleasure. But that sort of outline left out a lot of information I needed for a book like The Jericho River. What kind of mythical creatures wandered through the Babylonians’ imaginations? How were cats domesticated? What’s the origin of coffee? What did an ancient Sumerian city smell like? Was there a King Arthur? What did Roman noblewoman wear? Why did European men of the 1700′s wear wigs, of all things? That stuff required a lot of time in libraries and online.
What first inspired you to write The Jericho River?
My girlfriend (now wife) was studying to become a teacher, and she was having trouble with her history exam. So one afternoon, I gave her a multi-hour explanation of the history she had to learn. I did most of this teaching off the top of my head, with little preparation. And it worked. She felt better about the exam right away and had no trouble passing. Afterward, I wondered how all this random knowledge got embedded in my brain–and what else I might do with it.
The knowledge got there, I ultimately realized, because history is so magical to me. What to do with that knowledge resulting from that magic? Find a way to share it–not simply by telling history, but by revealing its magic, so that my audience retains it in the same way I have.
The answer crystallized one day while I was driving. Why not turn a timeline into a river–and write a fantasy novel that flows down that river, through a chronological, history-based adventure? Instead of telling people that history is magical, why not blend history and fantasy so thoroughly that readers will feel the magic themselves?
Do you plan on writing a sequel?
I plan to write several more books that use fantasy to teach history, as well as science. Please stay tuned!
I’m running a bit late with my 2012 year-in-review/round up/whatever, but that’s mostly because last year was pretty uneventful. The two biggest things were my going back to school (yes, I’m crazy) and my sister having a baby, making me officially a Crazy Aunt (yay!) Other than that, not much happened. The whole last year was pretty normal, for me anyway.
I was going to make a New Years’ Resolution, but I always break them, so I decided to save myself the time, effort and brainpower and not make one this year. Usually I say that I’m going to stop procrastinating, but obviously, it took me until January 4th to write this post, so that one’s out.
But, back to talking about school – I survived the fall semester (my first one since the year 2001, believe it or not) with an overall 3.825 GPA, proving once and for all that I am not an idiot. I took four classes – one of which required me to write an in-depth 20-page research paper, and for once I didn’t procrastinate on it. I wound up with a A on the paper, in the class, and I’m hoping (knock on wood!) to get it published in an academic journal. For this next semester, which starts a week from Monday, I’m taking five upper-level history classes, one of which requires a whopping 9 books. It’s a good thing that I like to read. The bad part involves walking up the stairs at the bookstore carrying all 9 of those books, plus the combined 19 that are required for my other 4 classes. Yikes.
Other than that worrying about and looking forward to the spring semester, I’ve spent my break working. I’ve also done a bit of updating (housecleaning?) on the sidebar of this blog, and I have some other work to do cleaning up links and things. I’m going to try to post at least once a week from here on out, as I have plenty of books to review and other things to write about. Things may get hectic though, so if I seemingly vanish, don’t worry!
Full disclosure: I used to work retail. In fact, I spent two years as a “seasonal” employee at Kohl’s while I was in college working on my first college degree. Of course, I was stationed at the cash registers and wasn’t a salesperson paid on commission like Freeman Hall was at The Big Fancy.
For those of who haven’t read his first book, Retail Hell, here’s a quick background: Freeman Hall moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, but in order to pay the bills while working on his screenplay, wound up working in the handbag (don’t call it a purse!) section at a department store referred to as The Big Fancy. There he encountered numerous customers (dubbed “custys”), a shoposaurus (who pretty much bought out most of the store on a regular basis), piggy shoppers (who made a mess and were generally disgusting) and NATS (“nasty ass thieves” who stole merchandise and returned for a tidy profit.)
In the sequel, Return to the Big Fancy: A Riotous Descent into the Depths of Customer, Corporate and Coworker Hell, Hall goes into more depth on the many ways that a large corporation can suck the will to live out their employees. Many of the customer encounters, coworker disasters (never work with a “shark”) and awful examples of the trio of head honchos dubbed the “Gestapo” at work were both hilarious and wincingly painful at the same time.
What brought this on? Well, it turns out that writing a successful screenplay and having it actually go into development are two different things. So, once again, Hall goes to work for The Big Fancy. This time his manager is nice, but most of his co-workers are painful to deal with. Between corporate forcing stupid policies on its workers, buyers who purchase the wrong merchandise for the store, and, of course, those ever-present customers, his life is made into a walking, never-ending hell of insipid phone calls, annoying training sessions and hard to reach sales goals.
Anyone who has ever worked retail will simultaneously understand where Hall is coming from and laugh hysterically at the tales within Return to the Big Fancy. And if you haven’t worked retail, hopefully it will help you put yourself in the shoes of those people ringing up your purchases the next time you go shopping.
In order to help you sympathize with retail workers everywhere, Hall has declared that Saturday, November 24th is Be Kind to Service Workers Day. Next week, November 18th through the 24th, all of The Big Fancy e-shorts will be on sale for 99 cents each (I haven’t read them yet, but I’m sure they’re just as awesome as Retail Hell and Return to the Big Fancy) and his first book, Retail Hell, will be on sale for $2.99.
Return to the Big Fancy is available now at retailers everywhere, and for more information on Freeman Hall or to air your retail drone grievances in public, please check out his blog, Retail Hell Underground.
(Disclaimer: I received a copy of Return to the Big Fancy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. And honest I am; I loved the book! For more information, please see my disclosure policy.)