"Keeping Corner" tells the story of a child widow in India in Ghandis' time.
Kashmira Sheth is brilliant in writing the point of view of a rather youn...more"Keeping Corner" tells the story of a child widow in India in Ghandis' time.
Kashmira Sheth is brilliant in writing the point of view of a rather young person - her protagonist and storyteller Leela is not even 13, and yet the story feels real. No difficult words, no overlong sentences, and as a bonus for non-Indian readers short explanations of customs and traditions that go naturally with the text.
The story itself is about Leela's year of mourning - called keeping corner - after the death of her "husband". Her anger when she is forced to give up her jewellery, her colourful clothes and even her hair; her sadness when she sees happy couples, or even a widower who, unlike her, will be allowed to remarry; and her tough way back to fighting are told extremely well, never rushed, and always believable.
When we hear about Ghandi's work now, it seems like a linear progression to us. First he did that, then he marched to, and finally he said ... In setting the story in a small village near Ghandi's hometown, Kashmira Sheth can show us the impact of his ideas and his actions on a normal Indian community. Over the course of a year, the men in the village debate about following Gandhi, oppose the British rule and experience the consequences of doing so. The newspapers are telling about similar things happening all over the country. This gives a wonderful sense of perspective and shows a lot, even if you already know about Gandhi's life. Even though Gandhi never appears in the novel, you can imagine the amount of work he had to put in to gain at least some small sort of reaction.
What I love about Kashmira Sheth's books is that they talk about young people coming to terms with the situation they're in, and then making the best of it. No one is miraculously saved but rather, after a period of growing, the characters save themselves. They tell young people not to give up, and to fight for what they want, and I know I'll be re-reading this one often and can even keep it for when I have my own kids to give it to them.
This makes 4.5 of 5 stars, rounded down because I have decided to be bitchy about the highest rating ;).(less)
This review is going to be really short. Mostly because I have absolutely no idea what to write.
Uzma Aslam Khan gives us an impression of life in Paki...moreThis review is going to be really short. Mostly because I have absolutely no idea what to write.
Uzma Aslam Khan gives us an impression of life in Pakistan today, with all the social, political and economical problems that come with it. And she is quite good at doing that. The problem is the fact that she really only leaves the reader with impressions; to me at least, nothing felt real. Sometimes peculiar storytelling choices also left me wondering what was really going on, and the look at the political situation in the Middle East was sometimes the only thing that helped my find my way through the story.
The characters stay rather two-dimensional, considering how much time we spend listening to their over-thinking tailspins. There are chapters from the viewpoints of three main characters, and sometimes they more or less detail the same things from different perspectives. Unfortunately this means that it feels like there's nothing happening, since most of the possibilities only unfold in a character's head. The writing of the dialogue is also rather odd, sometimes drifting into near play-writing, and this put me out of scenes when there was finally something happening.
Like I've said before, this is a short review. I couldn't get into the book, I wasn't all that interested in the story, I didn't care for the characters. I'm just happy that I've got other books by Pakistani authors, so that I can avoid Uzma Aslam Khan in the future because we're clearly not a good author-reader fit.
Do you remember the time when I gave only two stars to Uzma Aslam Khan's Trespassing? To me, "The Wish Maker" is exactly what "Trespassing" could have...moreDo you remember the time when I gave only two stars to Uzma Aslam Khan's Trespassing? To me, "The Wish Maker" is exactly what "Trespassing" could have been, had it been good. The purpose of both books is to paint a picture of modern-day Pakistan, and they both use a young man returning to the country from his studies in America to do so.
The similarities end there, because while Uzma Aslam Khan focused on her oddity of a plot, Ali Sethi focuses on his characters and their stories. He does so in a peaceful way, describing little anecdotes to highlight a part of someone's personality. He's rarely badmouthing any of the characters, and I found that I came to love our main character Zaki for the things he remembers about a person. He stays very hidden from the reader's view despite being the narrator for huge portions of the book, but I had no problems finding him in the observations he makes.
At times, Sethi goes on a historical tangent, as he follows the journey of one of the other characters, and he then touches upon some important moments in Pakistani history. You don't learn a lot though, unless you look up the events in question for yourself, as he doesn't educate you on what happened, he just assumes the reader knows and mentions it in passing to enhance the experience. This might not make it the perfect book if it is your first literary journey to Pakistan, but I quite liked being trusted like this as a reader.
There is a plot-like thing happening, but I didn't think it was all that important. I actually felt like looking at a painting, being able to zoom in on someone, then zoom out again and look somewhere else, seeing relationships between the people inhabiting this picture, being allowed to smell the spices and feel the breeze. It comes down to Sethi's writing, which felt very familiar to me, like joining Zaki in coming home. He uses short sentences and easy words, and somehow that makes it special without it needing to try. I've seen reviews saying it's too flowery, but I've read so much prose from both India and Pakistan, I would miss something if it wouldn't be like that.
There are two things I didn't realise when I picked up this book:
First off, this is nonfiction. And not a memoir of a single person either, as Jasvin...moreThere are two things I didn't realise when I picked up this book:
First off, this is nonfiction. And not a memoir of a single person either, as Jasvinder Sanghera actively works to better the lives of women like the ones she describes in her book. (Which makes this hard to review, because there is no doubt that this is a book that needs to be written.)
Second, I had originally placed this book on my shelf for Asia, and in a way this fits, but a huge part of this book shows you that things like abusive relationships that women can't escape from or forced marriages to strangers happen not just a continent away, but also affect women in western societies, despite the laws in place there.
Like I said, there is no discussion about the importance of Jasvinder Sanghera's work (and that of her charity, Karma Nirvana), and this book needed to be written to confront people with issues they'd rather forget. I couldn't help feeling though that this book might have needed a better editor. It is sometimes hard to read, not just because of the subject matter, and I had to remind myself sometimes that it is important that I should finish this book. Comparing this to the style of writing (just the style of writing!) of The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine, Somaly Mam had a better team around her. Still, go read it if you have only the slightest bit of interest in the subject, because you should.(less)
Momo, who has to grow up on his own, taking care of the household consisting of him and his working dad, without the mother or the perfect brother his...moreMomo, who has to grow up on his own, taking care of the household consisting of him and his working dad, without the mother or the perfect brother his dad prefers to him, befriends the owner of the little corner shop in his street in downtown Paris. Monsieur Ibrahim helps the young boy to discover himself, to deal with life and see its beauty all around him.
The book doesn't deal with religion as much as the title might suggest, even Monsieur Ibrahim only refers to "his Coran" which can be seen as a metaphor for the life he lived and the wisdom he takes from his experiences.
All in all, this is a wonderful short story about growing up, about love, and about the beauty of life, wonderfully told and always distinctly French ;).(less)
... just one thing up front - in case you actually haven't read the previous two titles, don't read this one, you'll end up with as much headache as M...more... just one thing up front - in case you actually haven't read the previous two titles, don't read this one, you'll end up with as much headache as Max trying to understand philosopher's logic ;).
With "The Fiend and the Forge", Henry H. Neff takes the "Tapestry" series even further than he did with book 2. I still remember not liking the fact that the first book in the series, The Hound of Rowan, was being compared to the Harry Potter series, but I guess that's now the problem of all books where children are introduced to magic (not that I don't like ~love~ Harry Potter ^^). I remember thinking that it had a lot of really great ideas and I liked the inclusion of art history, which is rather hard to come by in a young-adult book. With the second book, The Second Siege, and the arrival of all the new fighting techniques, Irish mysteries and the really thoughtful handling of explaining all the different aspects of the siege and the prize of a war, I thought the series took a major leap (albeit a very good one), and was on the verge of not considering it young-adult material anymore. The third book now definitely deserves an age restriction in my opinion, what with Max experiencing the cost of war, being a gladiator, being imprisoned, being tortured.
I'm not sure how much I like the fact that the book isn't all about David. It's a great idea to not actually follow the real hero but rather his protector, it's certainly more interesting to watch Max's adventures than to see David studying all the time and it does help the surprise reveals in the end, but I've grown to love the character of David (a lot) and I think it's sad that he doesn't explain himself or talk to Max as often as he used to in the previous books. Plus, Max can be rather annoying sometimes and not all of his excentricities can be explained away by him having a bad temper, whichever way it might be influenced by his blood or not.
Also, I still have a problem with time frames - from a general point of view of being in one place for three weeks to having been there for months just two pages later, to a sense of wonder how members of orders can just slip away for rescue missions that last a few weeks, down to a question of Max's character because sometimes it's just weird to have him do some things that maybe a man of thirty or forty years would do, but probably not a boy of sixteen. I know that part was explained in book two, but I still have some difficulties grasping the concept (especially when Max experiences one of his flares of temper in between me realizing it^^).
Also I think that despite being quite long this book threw up a lot more questions than answers, so I'm looking forward to No. 4, and am rather hoping it won't take quite as long ;), because it was an interesting and entertaining read, despite the sometimes rather gruesome themes. I loved all the new ideas, but it took some time taking it all in; I'm guessing a re-read of the entire series is in order before the publication of the next book.
I'm naturally hoping for more David in book four, plus a lot of answers to all the questions that have been raised, maybe a visit to the other Kingdoms, and perhaps a glossary for all the species floating around the text, because I had to look up about 70% of them (and most of them didn't get a result on Google ... Do smees actually exist in folk tales or legends?). Plus, I'd love to see more of the teaching and studying, althoug I'm afraid that Max is too old now to still attend classes.
P.S.: Luckily enough for me, there's no love triangle (please keep it that way!). P.P.S.: There's one thing in here that actually made me think of HP7, but in the worst way possible, and I would not have needed that happening! Especially as I couldn't have predicted it and so wasn't prepared for it at all :(. (less)
Ever since I was forced to read E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "The Sandman" and analyze Nathaniel's admiration for the automaton Olimpia in school, I'...moreEver since I was forced to read E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "The Sandman" and analyze Nathaniel's admiration for the automaton Olimpia in school, I've developed a liking for the kind of one-sided love stories where a person falls in love with inanimate objects or ideas. One wonderful example for such a story is the fairytale "Die Salamandrin und die Bildsäule" from Christoph Martin Wieland's collection Dschinnistan oder auserlesene Feen- und GeistermÃƒ. It shows that returned affection is not necessary for a true and lasting love.
The same holds true for the characters in Jaclyn Dolamore's young adult novel "Magic Under Glass". Nimira, a young girl dancing as a show act in a run-down establishment, is offered a way out of her miserable life as a gentleman named Hollin Parry hires her to perform alongside a piano-playing automaton. She discovers that the spirit of a young fairy prince is trapped inside the automaton, and although he isn't able to do more than play the piano to communicate, she falls in love with him and her feelings are strong enough to enable her to take up the fight against society, magicians, politics and the general problems of loving an automaton.
A second plus side to the book is the regency setting - and Jaclyn Dolamore manages to keep true to the writing style and the period throughout the book, thankfully never drifting into typical clichés. The magicians are well integrated (then again, that doesn't seem to be all that difficult; there are a lot of great examples out there - A Matter of Magic for example), and amazingly that goes for the fairies as well. Even though nothing is ever fully explained, no further explanations are needed to understand what's happening. And yet, at the end of it all, one is left with the idea of a great world that needs further exploring.
That thought leads to another bonus, especially for young-adult romance - no open ending! Even though potential story lines for the next volumes are made clear, this could count as a stand-alone book, which is rather polite of the author, considering there's no release date for book two ("Magic Under Stone") as of now ;).
Another plus side is the gorgeous cover of the international edition - I seriously don't understand why anyone would want to buy any other edition when there's cover art like that ;). Even if you're in the US (where the paperback is out since May 24th), go ahead, get the international edition anyway, so gorgeous ;).
One tiny thing I wondered about was the title - it's a beautiful metaphor, but how much does a ten-year-old know about metaphors? Then again, maybe that encourages parents to talk about the books with their kids - and that can only be a good thing.
All in all, a wonderful book, current favorite of my reading project, why is it that there are only five stars? ;).(less)
"Black Swan Rising" by Lee Carroll describes the journey of Garet James, a young woman who not only has to deal with huge financial problems, nightmar...more"Black Swan Rising" by Lee Carroll describes the journey of Garet James, a young woman who not only has to deal with huge financial problems, nightmares about her mother's accident ten years ago and a robbery that lands her father in the hospital, but also with getting dragged into New York's hidden world. And learning the talents of fairies, fey, and spirits while having to fight demons does not seem to be the thing that helps to figure out any of her real-life problems.
Nearly every thing about this book was perfect to me, although I see some things others might have problems with. The powers Garet is aquiring seem rather random, and frankly, I have never had any character who (view spoiler)[ rained (hide spoiler)] before, but to me, that's just one of the many brilliant ideas that makes this book extraordinary. The writing is incredibly beautiful, especially when Garet's emotions or experiences related to her powers were being described. I ended up not caring that much about her newest power anymore, as long as the description was as perfect as the last one. I also forgot to count the days to make sure everything was within the right time-frame, though it did seem to stretch on longer than the seven days it was planned for (not that I mind it stretching out eternally...). The romance was admittedly a bit hurried, but I still believed it, and that's the most important thing^^. The ending resolved (most) of the stories and allows for the book to stand on its own, even though it's the first part of a series. I loved all the references to artists, poets or history, especially the ones to Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and to Shakespeare's "The Tempest", and New York-wise this has to be one of the best books out there. There are many that feature London (understandably) but not that many about New York, and even less that are any good. But this one actually made me wish that either I could live in New York or someone would write a book like that about my own hometown. :) Well, all in all, obviously five stars ... though I am tempted to take one away again if the wait for the next book proves to be too long ;).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Mark Hodders' "The Stange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack" gives us a steampunked alternate history in which the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria...moreMark Hodders' "The Stange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack" gives us a steampunked alternate history in which the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria has not failed, and technologists and "eugenicists" are bringing about a new scientific age.
The general story concerning the friendship between Sir Richard Burton and Algernon Swinburne, and their investigation of several odd incidents involving Spring Heeled Jack, is quite enjoyable. I also liked the description of London at that time, and - in the beginning - I was enchanted by the descriptions of all those steampunk machinery and newly bred animals and whatever else Mark Hodder came up with. But I admit that I got bored by all the descriptions and philosophical discussions and re-talking of stuff that seemed obvious to me. Plus, weird unannounced jumps in the perspective where a bit of a turn-off, even more so when they happen right in the final action scene.
My biggest problem with this book however was the use of historical figures. I'm not opposed to that per se, but to put scientific and social heroes in a position where the reader must be completely abhorred by their inventions/experiments/political and philosophical position/... is a bit too far for my taste. Even the notes in the appendix, which talk about the real people that inspired this, don't give an apology or even an acknowledgement of their true achievements (with one notable exception in (view spoiler)[Florence Nightingale (hide spoiler)]. And they completely omit (view spoiler)[both Darwin and Dalton (hide spoiler)], which makes me think this appendix wasn't ever meant as a way to right things at all. Truly, people who read this book will probably have heard of some of these people before, and have their own opinion on the subject, but considering the disgusting and horrible things taking place, I can only say that I object to using these persons, and it deeply troubled me during the read.
All in all, this makes for three-and-three quarters of a star for a quite enjoyable, if flawed, read, and almost one star down because of the argument I made earlier. Not sure whether I'll buy the next one.
Plus, on an additional note, I would not want my child to read this, as it's full of drinking, fighting and horrible inventions, plus one character has rather eccentric sexual preferences which are constantly alluded to.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)