Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse - German Literature Month 2012

Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish... Knowledge can be communicated but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.

I was under the misconception, that this book was actually about Buddha. Which is one of the reasons why I was expecting something entirely different. For people like me, who have no idea what the book is about, here's a summary, taken from Goodreads.

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life - the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

While the Siddhartha of this book is not actually the Siddhartha (Gautam / Gotama Buddha), the book is set in his times and he does cross paths with him. The book does incorporate Buddha's four noble truths and the eight-fold plan, not to mention, the book is divided into parts according to the stages of Hindu life. It's a spiritual journey and unlike any of the corny stuff that those words bring to mind. Like I said, the book surprised me, albeit pleasantly.

However, I don't see myself re-reading the book, I'm unsure whether I'll like it the second time around, with the element of surprise no longer present. It's short and very moving, but neither of these things suits a re-read. According to me, this book is an amazing one-time-only read, but maybe that's just me.

It was a bit difficult for me to get through the German, perhaps the language is a bit stilted (is it?) Some of it just seemed wrong to me and since I don't think it's wise to trust myself on that, I don't know why language was difficult. It helped that it is such a small book. I found my copy at a book sale and it's old and has yellowed pages and these little insightful notes in the margins (I don't really like writing in books, though) and it smells great!

German Literature Month 2012 is hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy at Lizzy's Literary Life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest Post: Dr. Lesley Phillips (author of The Midas Tree)

Today I'd like to welcome to my blog an author, Dr. Lesley Phillips, who has been kind enough to write a really great article for us on writing!

Dr. Lesley Phillips is a speaker, author, workshop leader, spiritual and meditation teacher based in Vancouver BC, Canada. She is the author of the book “The Midas Tree,” a spiritual adventure story for children of all ages.

The Connection between Intuition and Imagination

Since writing my book, The Midas Tree, I made an interesting observation. What many writers call their imagination is what I call my intuition. I am a meditation teacher and intuitive counselor, and I use my spiritual senses on a daily basis in my work with students and clients.

I Wrote “The Midas Tree” Using My Intuition
My process for writing is to enter a meditative state. From this vantage point I am able to see the story unfold before my eyes as though I were watching a film. I can press pause, fast forward or rewind and begin watching again whenever I like.
The book outline was downloaded one sleepless night after a lengthy meditation on clearing limits The Midas Tree is my first novel. So to stimulate my creative flow and get started, I meditated on becoming a writer. The approach of connecting with my higher consciousness and releasing my creative blocks very quickly resulted in a flood of content.
By morning I had met all the characters of the book and had a very good idea about the plot, chapter headings and title The Midas Tree.

Intuitive Writing is a Common Approach by Novelists

I absolutely loved the process because it was so effortless. I never experienced writers block and writing for me was exciting because I was writing and reading my novel at the same time.
I have since read that this is the way that many writers approach their craft. For example this is how J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. All the characters were pre-formed and she watched the plot unfold before her eyes without necessarily being the conscious director of their actions.
In speaking with a seasoned author of YA novels, she explained that this was also the way that she wrote, but that she had always just considered this was how her imagination worked.
As I am an experienced intuitive reader, from my perspective this way of writing uses clairvoyance, which is the ability to see clearly as spirit. What I mean by spirit is the unseen world, where thoughts have not yet formed into matter. It is where all material creations come from.

My Previous Writing Experience was Intellectual
Even though I found writing “The Midas Tree” easy, my previous writing experience had been quite different. My background is in science and business and so most of my prior exposure to writing had been very different. I have written a PhD thesis, scientific papers, as well as business and marketing plans. I knew how to research, think logically and weigh up all the pros and cons. Yet here I was by-passing my intellect completely in order to give birth to a novel.
Now I am sure that the intellectual approach can work for writing a book as well. After all there must be as many ways of writing books as there are authors. I have observed that many aspiring writers do a lot of research, take classes, consult experts and join writers groups to learn the “correct” way to structure and write a novel. They decide in advance who their readers will be and they craft their work to be marketable to that audience.

Taking an Intellectual Approach is also Common Amongst Writers

After I had written my book I went to a talk by a famous crime writer. He used to be a lawyer and wrote his books with great attention to details. He had a clear set of guidelines that he followed that was his recipe for a successful crime novel. It even included things like when new characters could be introduced and what content should be included in the first 60 pages
Obviously this approach works for many successful writers. But for me it felt too limiting because the emphasis is on getting it right and on containing yourself within a set of pre-determined ideas.
I did not even know who my readers would be until I had completed the novel. Then I had to take a step back and see what I had created.

I created a Spiritual Adventure Story.
It turns out that The Midas Tree is a spiritual adventure novel that teaches truths about the nature of reality through an allegorical fairy tale. The hero battles with his ego on the journey through the tree, which represents the journey of enlightenment.
The book also includes the meditation techniques that I teach in my classes. It is written a way that makes the information available to children and adults alike.
It is my deepest wish that this book will help children to validate their intuition, as I did, and use it in the most creative and rewarding way for them.

The Midas Tree is available on Amazon as a paperback or e-book

And the author can be reached at:-

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wheels by Lorijo Metz

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the book: WHEELS by Lorijo Metz is a sci-fi adventure filled with mystery and romance; a coming-of-age tale that proves it takes more than super powers to save a planet.

Summary: McKenzie Wu stumbles upon a portal, transporting her and her friend Hayes to the tiny planet of Circanthos, she learns the inhabitants believe she is the “One” destined to save them from H.G. Wells, a name that sounds strangely familiar, and his Tsendi warriors. But while her newfound ability to arrange molecules with her mind might give her superhero status back on Earth, halfway across the galaxy it’s commonplace; all Circanthians can particle-weave; and if they can’t stop H.G. Wells, what can she hope to do? With the portal closed and no idea how to get home, McKenzie must learn to use a power she does not want and accept her mysterious past, or risk losing everything; her father’s love, her new alien friends and the boy.

My thoughts: I've really only got one thing to say: I'm completely wowed. The summary seemed promising and the book completely satisfied my expectations. It is a quick, humourous, action-packed read, and I loved it in spite of the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of science fiction. The only problem I had with the book was the editing (or the noticeable lack thereof.) That's something that can really turn me off a book and I wish there were no overlooked errors.

That being said, this is one of the most innovative books I have read in a while. The world (well, worlds) built is so intricate and every detail is carefully planned out; I could imagine how much effort went into it. I like the author's writing style and how she employed all the five senses to aptly describe just about anything. I find science fiction hard to get involved in, but that was never a problem with this book. I got sucked right into the world and let me tell you, it was fabulous. The characters were rounded and so, realistic and I found it easy to relate to McKenzie. And I absolutely loved the switching perspectives; very few authors can handle them so well. The were some typical Young Adult novel elements, but nothing was overly cliched. 

All in all, this book is something I'd recommend you to read, if you like science fiction, fast-paced books or young adult novels. You can buy the book here!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling # 1

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is a fun little book about reading, woven around the simplest idea: What if the Queen discovers the pleasures of reading? As she becomes a passionate reader, Her Majesty arranges a reception to meet and interact with some of the writers she enjoys reading. At the soiree, however, the Queen is disappointed and she realizes something:

"Authors are as much creatures of the reader's imagination as the characters in their books."

I read The Uncommon Reader last week, but something like what Bennett has said has been on my mind for a month. I still haven't finished reading The Casual Vacancy. I'm taking it slow. But I do like whatever I have read so far and here's what I think (call this a mid-read review):

The first half of the book is very character focused and Rowling is great at building characters. You get easily attached to them and halfway through the book, you feel like you know them. The plot moves slowly but that doesn't mean that the first half of the book is devoid of action. There are a lot of back-stories and memories and sub-plots to keep you involved and curious. The book is impressive and moving from the very beginning. I loved the way Rowling deals with hard emotions and gory details in brisk, matter-of-fact tones and the intended message is sent across subtly, even employing dark humour, quite unlike the bold life lessons in Harry Potter. The build-up is great, you just know something big is coming, and when it does, it arrives with a BANG!

Being the die-hard Harry Potter fan that I am, I can see why Harry Potter fanatics were shocked at how adult the novel is. In her defense, of course, Rowling did make it pretty clear that it was going to be nothing like Harry Potter. And yet, most of the bad reviews I came across were from disappointed Harry Potter fans, and were full of things like:

Rowling has written outrageous stuff for the sake of making the book "different." She has tried too hard to sound adult. There is too much cursing and bad language and I lost respect for Rowling. 

After reading every single thing that Rowling had ever written about the Wizarding World and re-reading most of it over the years, her writing felt homey and comfortable and somewhere I felt I had a connection with her, which I am sure most people who grew up with the Harry Potter series feel. But then, like Her Majesty feels in The Uncommon Reader, we don't really know an author just by reading their book. What J. K. Rowling shows us through Harry Potter is just one side of her. And so, even though the author of Harry Potter is someone that we love and is more than enough for us, J. K. Rowling doesn't end there. She is full of surprises and The Casual Vacancy proves that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Connections by Mary Lou Gediman

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Pontiac Parker is a bit of an eccentric. He is also extremely dedicated to his cultural and spiritual heritage. Pontiac’s extraordinary fixation with the number seven may seem peculiar to the insensible onlooker. To him, thought, it's as natural as any one of his other beliefs. He doesn't know how or when his complex seven obsessions started, but, as the story unfolds, he will slowly and surely find out.
On his wedding day a note with a feather attached to it and a series of numbers written on it is left taped to his front porch, clues for him and his new bride to decipher. These are soon followed by more clues, more notes, and more elusive numbers to figure out. What does it all mean? Neither he nor his new bride knows what to make of it all. They soon discover that they cannot ignore the notes and the clues because the fate of many lives ultimately hangs in the balance. But, in order for him to save these people's lives and also the lives of many generations to come, he must first face the most debilitating and dangerous challenge he has ever encountered. And it is a challenge that shakes the very core of his Native American belief system.
The risks are great and the rewards are many, but for whom? And in the end, what underlying force will ultimately prevail - altruism or greed?

My thoughts: It is very hard to write about this book. I want to love it but I can't and here's why.

The plot of this book is intricate and naturally, very well thought out. The fact that the writer has conducted a lot of research and built an engaging story around it is evident. Everything, right from the title to the illness, fits together like pieces of a fabulous puzzle. Connections is what the book is all about, bonds and family ties and the fact that sometimes all we can do is help. I love the way the writer has integrated a message in every part of the book and the story and what the characters have to face do leave a lasting impression on the reader.

And still, something is missing. I found the book a bit dull. It took me a long time to want to read further. I had to trudge on through the first few chapters, searching for the action that came too late. The characters are introduced in excruciating detail way too soon. The author tried to be amusing as she spent the entire first chapter describing the eccentric Pontiac, but the humour was lost on me. I thought the characters were a bit too specific and because I couldn't relate to most of their typical traits, they bordered on seeming boring. At times, they even seemed inconsistent and even though I discovered many things about Pontiac and Maggie throughout the story, there didn't seem to be a real character arc.

So the question I keep coming back to is whether I can love a book for the story, when I didn't particularly like the characters. That is something you should find out for yourself! If you like thrillers, with mysterious pasts and codes and relationships and such, this is the book for you. Grab your copy right here!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig - German Literature Month 2012

This is my slightly late post about The Royal Game / Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig that I read for the first week of the German Literature Month 2012.

About the book (from here)Chess Story, also known as The Royal Game, is the Austrian master Stefan Zweig's final achievement, completed in Brazilian exile and sent off to his American publisher only days before his suicide in 1942. It is the only story in which Zweig looks at Nazism, and he does so with characteristic emphasis on the psychological.

On the ship from New York to Buenos Aires, our narrator spots Mirko Czentovic, the world chess champion. Czentovic started out as a poor boy and is still illiterate. He prefers to keep to himself and never having learnt about any other greatness than his own, he is arrogant. When a few passengers, along with the narrator, approach him to play a game of chess with them, he agrees to play for a price. They come together to try their skills against him and are soundly defeated. Then a mysterious passenger, Dr. B, steps forward to advise them and their fortunes change. The passengers try to persuade Dr. B to play with Czentovic one on one, but he promptly refuses. When the narrator asks Dr. B, how he became such a skilled chess player, Dr. B narrates his story.

As a monarchist hiding valuable assets of the nobility, Dr. B had been tortured by the Nazis, who kept him in total isolation. He had come across a book of chess games, which he had then read and memorized; it had been his only way to keep himself from going insane. After memorizing and absorbing every move mentioned in the game and being left with nothing to do, Dr. B had begun to play against himself, splitting himself into the two players: White and Black. He had reached an emotional breakdown because of the psychological conflict, and had only returned back to his sanity, after being rescued. Chess is more a game of the mind than anything else and the crux of the story lies in the final game between Mirko Czentovic and Dr. B., a showdown between an illiterate stoic and a learned neurotic.

The way the book deals with its themes of torture, incarceration, defeat, war, politics and in extreme detail Nazism is at once horrific, depressing and amazingly true to life. The way Zweig writes about what goes on in someone's head, the way he can translate the hopelessness and helplessness into words is fabulous. I like Zweig's austere writing style and the pace of the book. It's a short but impactful novella, and one that I think everyone ought to read.

(The picture is a woodcut by Elke Rehder, a German artist who has done a series of artworks on Stefan Zweig's Schachnovelle.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Two Poems based in Folklore - German Literature Month 2012

The German Literature Month 2012 is hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy at Lizzy's Literary Life. The first week is for novellas, plays and poems. I read two books of poems, one by Goethe and another by Heinrich Heine. This post is about two fascinating poems, which are based, to an extent, on folklore.

The first is a poem called Der Erlkoenig or The Elfking / Alder King / Erlking by Goethe. You can read it here, along with the literal translation and English adaptation. The poem is best of course, in its original language, but here is another loose adaptation of the poem in English by Sir Walter Scott. There are actually many translations of the poem, my personal favourite would be the one by Edgar Bowring, mostly because the archaic language maintains the quaintness of the ballad.

Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
The father it is, with his infant so dear;
He holdeth the boy tightly clasped in his arm,
He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

“My son, wherefore seek’st thou thy face thus to hide?”
“Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side!
Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?”
“My son, ‘tis the mist rising over the plain.”

“Oh, come, thou dear infant! Oh, come, thou with me!
Full many a game I will play there with thee;
On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold.”

“My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?”
“Be calm, dearest child, ‘tis thy fancy deceives;
‘Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves.”

“Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care;
My daughters by night their glad festival keep,
They’ll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep.”

“My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?”
“My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
‘Tis the aged gray willows deceiving thy sight.”

“I love thee, I’m charmed by they beauty, dear boy!
And if thou’rt unwilling, then force I’ll employ.”
“My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
Full sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last.”

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child:
He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread,
The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead.

I love the poem, it is dark and dreary, just the way I like. I realized there were many interpretations of this poem, after reading some myself, like the Erl-King being seduction or all things forbidden. I like it more when the supernatural is actually there, even if as a horrific figment of our imagination, rather than a symbol. The most literal meaning is that there actually is an Erl-King, who after failing to take the child with him, kills him in anger.

To me, though, they don't seem like just another father and child. It's late and it's a dark and dreary night; to me it seems like there is a reason that they are travelling in right then; a reason that the father is holding his child so close and tight. The child is already sick and hallucinating. What I thought is that the Erl-King is something that the child believes has come to take him, when he is on the verge of dying, a Grim Reaper, if you may. As the child loses his touch with reality, he feels that something is beckoning him to join it and after the child protests, forcing him. The child doesn't want to go, as he is scared, but death or the Erl-King takes him away, anyway.

I doubt that the father ever believes in the Erl-King, even as he runs away. It is just the most obvious thing to do: he is on his horse, it is dark and no one is around and as the child's desperation increases, the father knows something is wrong and gallops off, terrified, to where he was originally headed: to get help. It could also be said that the father prefers to believe in the fantastic tale of an Erl-King taking his child away, so as to put the blame for the child's death on something other than the fact that the father himself was late in getting help. 

I love the setting: the wisps of cloud in the sky, the sound of wind rustling through the leaves, the shadows of huge, still trees; they all do seem like evil spirits. Creating a fear of the unknown or unseen may be the most used technique in horror, gothic fiction, but it works for me every time. I really liked this ballad.

Would your interpretation of the text be as literal as mine?

The second poem is Die Lore-ley or The Lorelei by Heinrich Heine. You can read the original poem here.
I first read it in English, a few years ago, in Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad. When I read the original poem in Gedichte, a book of poems by Heinrich Heine, I remembered why I was so fascinated by the story and the legend back then. Also, the imagery in the original poem is masterful and I could imagine every single detail of the scene from the way it is written. 

Here's the version Mark Twain mentioned in the book. He had probably translated it himself, but I'm not entirely sure about that:

I cannot divine what it meaneth,
This haunting nameless pain: 
A tale of the bygone ages 
Keeps brooding through my brain:

The faint air cools in the glooming,
And peaceful flows the Rhine, 
The thirsty summits are drinking 
The sunset's flooding wine;

The loveliest maiden is sitting 
High-throned in yon blue air,
Her golden jewels are shining, 
She combs her golden hair;

She combs with a comb that is golden, 
And sings a weird refrain 
That steeps in a deadly enchantment 
The list'ner's ravished brain:

The doomed in his drifting shallop, 
Is tranced with the sad sweet tone, 
He sees not the yawning breakers,
He sees but the maid alone:

The pitiless billows engulf him!--
So perish sailor and bark;
And this, with her baleful singing, 
Is the Lorelei's gruesome work.

The Loreley is a rock on the coast of the river Rhein, which forms a blind turn on the narrowest part of the river. Many sailors have crashed onto the rock and died. The heavy currents near the rock create a murmuring sound, which has inspired many legends and folklore. The mythical tale of the musical nymph Echo inspired a ballad, where a beautiful girl named Loreley, who has been betrayed by her lover, jumps down to her death, from the rock on the Rhein. The echo of her name haunts the rock and kills any man who approaches it.

Heinrich Heine's poem on the other hand, looks at Loreley as a siren instead of a nymph. Sirens are devious, seemingly beautiful creatures who lure sailors to their doom with their charming voices. The poem could be interpreted thus as a tale of a frightening monster that wants to kill the sailors. It can also be seen as  a tragic romantic story, which is how I first interpreted it. The singer, Loreley, might as well be blissfully oblivious to the gruesome ending, which her music has brought the men to. 

I like the use of sounds in the poem and the small word-plays, which I couldn't really describe because the poem I've given here isn't the original. That makes me wonder if it is worth reading translated poems, with everything that may have been lost in the process. A single changed syllable changes the sound, and hence the rhythm, and it could change the meaning of the poem or affect the way a poem is interpreted. Not to mention there are word plays, allusions and puns that can't quite be translated word for word. What do you think?

Another poem by Goethe that I read and loved was Heidenroeslein. The book of Heinrich Heine's poems was a precious little collection and I enjoyed all the poems I read. Which are your favourite German poems?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dangerous Past by A. F. Ebbers Virtual Tour - Review and Giveaway

I have received this book in exchange for an honest review.

To visit the rest of the virtual book tour stops, visit the Partners in Crime Tours page. 

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Silverhawk Books
Publication on: September 8th, 2011
Pages: 240

To win an e-copy of this fabulous book, scroll down.

About the author: A. F. Ebbers, a journalism graduate of Ohio University was a reporter/writer for major newspapers, ad agencies, and in public relations for Cessna Aircraft Company. He also graduated from Army Flight School and flew for the Ohio and Kansas Army National Guards. Later he was called to active duty and served two flying tours in Vietnam. After retirement from the military, he flew for corporations and for regional airlines. A dual rated ATP pilot, he has written for numerous national magazines, Sunday supplements and trade and travel magazines and has written screenplays and short stories. Today he lives with his wife in the Austin, Texas area and, when not writing, enjoys tennis, golf, flying and piano. Dangerous Past is his debut novel.

Summary: Airline Captain Frank Braden and his wife Nicole are suddenly stalked by professional assassins who have a deadline to make their deaths look like an accident or a suicide. And the couple doesn't know why they are being targeted. They don't realize that they stand in the way of a deadly conspiracy. Little by little they are pulled into a dangerous web of intrigue by a murderous criminal network that deceptively offers the pilot his wife's life if he will concede to their demands. This is a thriller that rocks the highest levels of Washington.
Dangerous Past is a story of a man who must choose between doing what ought to be done or keeping his family alive by allowing a murderous and powerful VIP to escape his past.

My thoughts: I think it was Spider Robinson, who said (in Callahan's Crosstime Saloon) that people should write about things that they know, irrespective of what those things are. I have paraphrased it, of course, what he said was definitely much funnier. I realized how true that was as I read this book. The author's confidence with his own material is striking throughout the book and that makes it unlike most debut novels. The book is a page turner and can be read in one, exciting sitting.

The suspense is well maintained and quite frustrating (in a good way.) I could never figure out what was going to happen next and the author kept me well on the edge of my seat throughout the book. I loved the climax and the shocking revelations it brought. The theme of the book is also haunting and the title perfectly suits the story. The idea that someone can be so thoroughly framed is scary. The setting is very visual, and I liked the descriptions of Vietnam. The characters are convincing and not overly stereotypical. I liked the dialogue, I think very few authors can write good, realistic conversations.

My only problem with the book might have been the jumps in time and point of view and the confusion caused by them. Another thing was that the plot and action was at times a bit cliched and it felt too much like watching a movie. But in a combo of mystery, suspense, thriller, that is to be expected of most books.

Dangerous Past by A. F. Ebbers is a riveting read and I recommend fans of the genre as well as anyone looking for a fast read to try it out. You can buy it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: 3/5 - I liked it!

Giveaway: Answer a simple question right HERE.
One randomly chosen winner gets a free copy of the book. Provide your e-mail address within the answer and I will send one lucky entrant an eBook (format of your choice)!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

German Literature Month 2012

German Literature Month!! I can't believe I forgot about this. This is a one-month event (naturally) hosted by  Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life. Last year I had a blast participating in the event and discovered some great authors like Heinrich Boell, Ferdinand von Schirach, Joseph Roth.

This is the schedule for the event this year:

Week 1: Novellas, plays and poems
Week 2: Literary novels
Week 3: Genre fiction: crime, fantasy, horror, romance
Week 4: Read as you please

Here are the books that I want to read (I might, of course, change the list entirely as I go; I'm unpredictable that way.)

Week 1: I have a few books piled up from last year, that I didn't get around to reading, which include a couple of novellas. The one I'm sure about reading this week is Schachnovelle / The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig.
I have a book of poems by Heinrich Heine that sounds surprisingly nice and I want to try a couple of poems by Goethe that I've heard/read about.
I also have a book, a play called Des Teufels General / The Devil's General by Carl Zuckmayer. All I know is that it's about the war, and if I find time, I would like to read it as well.

Week 2: Last month, at a book sale, I found a precious little copy of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. I have always wanted to read that book and there couldn't be a better time. Some books I want to try include those by authors Bernhard Schlink, Thomas Mann, Hans Fallada, Franz Werfel among others, but I have absolutely no idea, which of these books I'm actually going to find.
From last year's stock I have Das Boot / The Boat by Lothar- G√ľnther Buchheim. I saw the movie a long time ago and I'm hoping a little idea of what happens might help me understand that huge novel in its original German.

Week 3: German genre fiction is a complete blank for me and I'll need to do some research when the time comes. Right now, the only names that come to mind are Ingrid Noll for thriller and E. T. A. Hoffmann for fantasy/supernatural fiction.

It's been far too long since I have a read a German book and I can't wait to get started! What are you reading?

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Burning Bush by Kenya Wright

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: The book is set in Santeria, a caged city for supernaturals. Soon after the humans discovered the existence of supernaturals, there were the Human-Supe wars, in which the humans, with the advantage of having weapons, won. Now, throughout the world there are caged cities, where the supernaturals are contained by the humans and are allowed to lead their lives. They have their own society and rules and have also got human cops called habbies. There are two types of supernaturals, the purebloods and the mixbreeds. Lanore Vesta is a Mixie with the power to control fire, and has spent the first book in this series (Fire Baptzied) helping Rivera, a habbie, solve a murder mystery, with the help of her boyfriend Zulu and and ex-boyfriend MeShack, a were-cheetah.

In The Burning Bush, two girls have been found murdered and tied to the eponymous burning bushes. The fire is intact and the bodies are unharmed, leading Lanore and Rivera to the conclusion that this is an act involving magic. As Lanore tries to solve this mystery, she has other problems to deal with. Lanore and her friends have to try and take down a scary, age-old vampire businessman Dante Botelli. Lanore becomes involved in a dangerous turf war with disastrous consequences for all of them.

My Thoughts: Wow, I did not expect to like the book quite so much. I certainly did not expect to almost turn into a desperate fangirl waiting for the next book. Here's what I thought:

What I liked: Let's start with the cover; I think it's great, and I don't usually like the covers of most contemporary YA/urban fantasies. Most of them have pictures of girls in huge gowns or couples staring at each other. I like how this cover displays one of the key scenes in the book. The book began with a bang. I liked the action and the fact that the author has maintained a fast pace till the very end. This book gives us a much greater insight into the world of Santeria and the work put into creating an intricate world is evident throughout. Not having read much from this genre, I still couldn't say if the concept of this world, its history and creatures are altogether unique but I do like the way it is written. The idea of Human-Supe Wars and caged cities is fascinating. The traits and behaviour of the old characters are consistent with the first book, though many back-stories are revealed, which I found interesting. The characters that are newly introduced are also well written. I liked the way the author uses this world to draw parallels with ours. There are so many underlying themes in the book, like family, race, abuse, justice. But the message is sent without making it too obvious, unlike in most books and I like the discrete symbols more than anything.

What I didn't like: The love triangle and the throwing around of "I love you"s reminded me of Twilight (in a bad way.) I don't think there was any other purpose of Lanore not being able to choose between MeShack and Zulu other than to attract readers (the kind who like Twilight.) It was also sort of sickening to see an otherwise uncharacteristically strong and confident woman to turn weak and desperate around both of the men. Not to mention, the fact that the only way she was ever able to say "No" to either of them was by burning them. If only the author had cut down on the mushy romance a bit, this book might have been a lot more interesting, but that might just be my opinion. Another thing I absolutely loathed was the cliffhanger ending. The only reason I avoid reading series is because there is a chance that the ending might be left hanging and I was extremely furious when I realized that this book did not have a conclusion. It is infuriating to have to wait for an entire new book to release to find out what happens next. Every book in a series should stand alone.

Thanks to that cliffhanger ending, it is no wonder that I'm going to read the next book. If you are a fan of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, I'm sure you'll like this book. I recommend you to start reading the series too before the third book comes out! Grab your copies right here.