Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:  Ever since I can remember, I've always been a fan of survival stories, whether in books, movies, or tv shows.  I've also had this strange fascination with survival stories that take place in space, not sure why, but it's always been that way.  When I read the premise to this book, I knew I had to read it.  Luckily, I came across it just in time at Blogging for Books, the first time I was too late and there weren't any print review copies available.  Finally, after a month or two, I checked back again and there were extra print copies there.

The main character, Mark Watney, is a likable character.  He's highly intelligent, efficient, and has a smart-alecky sense of humor with an upbeat attitude.  He never seemed to let any obstacles get in the way or bring him down.  Definitely a McGyver type which ultimately helped him survive alone on Mars for over a year.

The story is fascinating and you actually feel as though this is a real person and you are reading his diary entries, rooting for him every step of the way.  The only dry moments for me in the story were when he was doing his scientific calculations, vital to the storyline, but I quickly sort of skimmed through those sections.  The end of the book is nail-biting as you read along, wondering if Mark is going to make it off Mars or end up dying there as his crew tries to rescue him by doing a dangerous maneuver.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi or like me, just stories of survival.  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Secret Journal of Ichabod Crane by Alex Irvine

From Fox’s breakout hit “Sleepy Hollow,” an unprecedented look inside the mind of one of TV’s hottest new characters.

Review:  When I saw this book available at Blogging for Books, I knew that I had to read it.  I've been watching the series on tv along with my entire family ever since the show debuted.  What I like about it is that it's suitable for all ages and to find a show that everyone in the family likes is rare.

The book didn't let me down.  As you're reading it, you can hear the voice of Ichabod (from the tv series) speaking the words.  The journal seems very authentic and keeps the reader's interest by including drawings, puzzles, police files, ancient writings, maps, etc.  It was mesmerizing and you couldn't wait to keep reading to see what the next "artifact" would be.

You also get a glimpse of  the first few episodes as the book goes into brief summaries about what Ichabod and Abigail have experienced.  It was cool to go back and relive the past episodes and re-explore the situations they were in and in some cases, the creatures they fought against

I also enjoyed reading Ichabod's witty observations about the 21st century.  In one of his lists, he mentions things like:  water in the shower gets really hot and really cold and will run out, images on the television might be real, coffee shops are everywhere, skinny jeans are terrible, and taxes are really high.

I would recommend this book to anyone who's a fan of the tv series Sleepy Hollow.  I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Poet #36 at Houseboat

~ Today, I'm the featured poet over at Houseboat, a dynamic poetry and photography journal edited by Rose Mary Boehm.  Thank you Rose for inviting me to send some poems your way, I've been enjoying both the poems and photos and feel honored to be a part of this wonderful endeavor.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Where the Dead Become Diamonds


A Swiss company wants to change the way people mourn by transforming the remains of their loved ones into gems.

Rinaldo Willy displays one of his diamonds.

“When a man of 80 kilos is cremated, he becomes 2.5 kilos of ashes,” Rinaldo Willy explained. “With these ashes, we make a diamond of 0.2 grams, smaller than a button on your shirt. How heavy is the soul—if we have a soul?”

In its coupling of the tangible and intangible, it is a question that epitomizes Willy’s work. Every year, Algordanza, the company he founded in 2004, receives more than 800 urns filled with human ashes. For between $5,000 and $20,000, the contents of each parcel are transformed into a diamond.

It is also more than a diamond. “Maybe ‘soul’ is too strong of a word,” Willy continued, still struggling to define the essence of his product. “Our process is purely physical—but if the deceased had blue eyes, and the diamond turns out blue, you can be sure that the family will say, ‘Oh, it’s exactly the color of his eyes.’”

We were sitting on the cool leather couches of Algordanza’s simple reception room in the sleepy town of Chur, Switzerland. Tucked away high in the Alps, the town seems isolated, and yet events as diverse as the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Chilean earthquake, the Fukushima meltdown, and the terror bombings in Madrid have all sent ripples through Algordanza’s halls. Within weeks of a major incident the parcels begin to arrive. “We had a British soldier from Afghanistan recently,” Willy mentioned. “He came home and then he came to us. His body—not him, of course.”

The route from the train station in Chur to the company’s facility passes through medieval cobblestone streets, a golf course, and wildflower fields. It is a journey that many grieving clients make. “We ask that the family either brings the ashes or picks up the diamond in person,” explained Willy, 34. “For us, it’s important that they see who the people taking care of their loved ones are.” The pilgrimage to Chur is just one part of a choreography that Willy has designed around the six-month gem-making process. As one of the first companies to enter the memorial diamond business a decade ago, Algordanza, whose name means “remembrance” in the local Romansh language, has developed a tradition all its own.

“I told my staff that they are not allowed to make condolences at the beginning,” Willy said. “You don’t know the people. You don’t know their story. It’s not honest. During this process, however, we inform the clients every time we do something—for example, when the chemical analysis is done, or when we start the growing process. So, if you start to form a certain relationship—if you make chitchat, and you start to learn who the deceased was, how he died, and who the relatives are—if you feel that you want to make a condolence then, you may, because it’s honest.”

Other protocols include standing outside as the family departs until they are out of view, and delivering the finished diamond by hand inside of a polished wooden box like the one on the table before me. I watched as Willy slowly donned white cotton gloves and in a series of precise gestures unfolded the box without a sound. It opened like a flower to reveal the diamond inside on a little pyramid. “It is special to me when I am able to deliver a diamond in person,” he confided. “We do it in the living room or the kitchen with everyone around the table. It’s a very emotional moment when you are returning a family member who was away for six months. The diamonds always bring back beautiful memories. If there are tears, they are tears of happiness.”

In the laboratory down the hall, the gloves came out again. “We never touch the ashes or the diamonds with our hands,” Willy explained. “It’s too intimate for us.” He gestured towards a row of white canvas covers. “During the process when we’re waiting for the next step, we always cover the remains so that they’re not naked. We do this because we believe that’s how we would like to be treated—not as a material.”

Each set of remains is assigned a reference number, both for discretion and for the emotional health of the employees. “It helps the people working with the ashes to have a certain distance,” Willy said. “For me, the French are the most difficult. They have this philosophy to send a photograph of the deceased along with the urn. It’s difficult to see a girl of nine years. What has she seen of this life?”

To read the continuation of this article, click here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nature Haiku

Golden sky yawns
Egrets scamper across leaves
Life in a silk fan 

Copper rain drips dreams
Sipping from a bowl of sky
not a drop wasted 

(Published in Black Dahlia, Dec 2010)

Elder Koi shake fins
Chase shadows from the fresh pond
Death is not welcome 

Wildflowers undress
Pink, blue, purple petals mix
A puzzle awaits 

Twirling under May
An expectant mother blooms
Spring's first white tulip

Red poppies appear
dot snowy fields of decay
Melting Winter's ire

Barn owls float on trees
feathers soft as fragile clouds
gold eyes glow like stars

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Woman Come Undone by Ha Kiet Chau

Ha Kiet Chau's chapbook, Woman Come Undone, has finally been published after a year.  I first read her poetry when she submitted poems to Flutter Poetry Journal over a year ago.  I instantly liked her work and when she asked me to write a blurb for her chapbook, I happily obliged.  

Woman Come Undone is published under Mouthfeel Press, is Perfect Bound, 52 pages, and can be purchased for $12.00.

My Review:

Ha Kiet Chau’s chapbook, Woman Come Undone, is a sensual, exquisite journey along the Silk Road of womanhood.  Here, the thoughts and feelings of various women are explored through detailed imagery to include exotic locales and use of metaphor as seen in objects and animals.  This is a book to add to your poetry collection and one that you will want to come back to again and again.