Saturday, February 27, 2016

5 Things I have learned from reading Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco's death one week ago is a reminder that writers are mortal too. Even someone whose deep culture and extraordinary fresh spirit may sound outwordly in our busy century. His books, starting with the Name of the Rose published at 48, are an example of complicated mysteries going beyond the trivial shot and kill. At certain extents, they put into question worlds and require complex intellectual abilities to solve. 
I first heard about him in the late 1980s, when I was still living in a country where books were forbidden. My mother, who was moved only by high intellectual emotions, succeeded to obtain an underground copy, a very bad translation printed on horrible paper. She read it very fast because other people were probably waiting for the book too and for the next weeks, they kept discussing about it during the intellectual underground meetings of the time. I was not privy to their debates, as they used to keep children at bay for safety reasons - a child can eventually unconscioulsy slip openly at school or who knows where  some of the political arguments against the dictatorship - but as soon as I was independent and in a free country, I read Eco. Maybe at the time and given the political fuss made in the old country about, the book had not changed tremendously my life, but I have found Eco interesting and continued to read his other books too. 
There are a couple of lessons I learned from my years spent reading or thinking about him that made my bookish life more sounding:

- Always rely on good translations and, if not, make an effort and learn the language the books were written. As for now, I mostly relied on good English and German translations, using the Italian for some of the essays. Learning Italian is part of my improvement plans for the next 12 months and maybe I can try to read the Name of the Rose in its original language.
- Complex literary stories can still be successful. There is a high production of simple books, with a relatively simple story, but the more difficult the narrative looks the more appealing for the reader.
- It is not a deadline for achieving literary success. Eco entered the literary stage at only 48 and he continued writing for the almost nearly 40 more years. I always wondered why he was not considered for the Nobel prize as his work is a dramatic contribution to the humanity.
- The Renaissance man can survive and develop in our technology savvy century. Actually, the ways in which science expanded and the opportunities offered by social networks can pave the way for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of reality.
- It is possible to integrate successfully complicated Jewish topics as the Kabbalah into non-Jewish literature. Eco's guide into specific Jewish reading was Moshe Idel that I had the opportunity to listen to a couple of times. In Foucault's Pendulum he made Kabbalistic complex topics part of the story in a very careful way without trivializing the subject, as it happens when the issue is approached by the big literature. 

Book review: Kitty's countryside dream, by Christie Barlow

Devastaded by the death of her mother, for whose care she gave up her career and university plans, Kitty is turning overnight into the confused owner of a chicken farm and a spacious house (plus a cat) left by a grandmother she never was told about. She, who ' never went further than the local town', moved over in a quint village where she does not know anyone and is curious about how her new life will start. 
The challenges to her lonely existence spent mostly in the company of books are following one after the other: first, life and working at the chicken farm is far beyond her competence and she has to deal with an overwhelming amount of work and chicken with very strong personalities. She has a crush on Tom, the manager of the farm who was the apprentice and right hand of the energic grandmother Agnes. She wrongly assumes that Tom is in a relationship with the beautiful co-worker Jeannie and even they are about to have a baby together. 
And there is even more higher levels for her emotional roller-coaster new life: she discovers a secret diary of what she was supposed to be her aunt but at the end of the story she will discover that in fact, the author of the confession, Violet, is in fact her mother and her father is no one else than Jeannie and Robin father. She was just about to date Robin, among others things that happened to her. Her teenage mother was sent to a Canadian relative by Agnes, Kitty being adopted by Violet' sister, Alice. 
There is a kind of happy ending too, once all the misunderstandings are clarified and the situation is accepted with an optimistic sight into the future: she and Tom will get married, she has a father and a new family now. More importantly, she finally had the feeling of belonging. A good nature, she will not nurture any resentment against her adoptive parents, to whom she remains grateful, but she will not be able to meet her real mother, as she died suddenly couple of months before succeeding to achieve her planned trip of reuniting with her daughter.
The story is interesting and you can hardly have time to get bored because there is always something going on. Personally, I would have expected that Kitty is curious in the first to find out more about a mysterious rich grandmother and not to just go with the flow and expect a couple of months till the things are getting more clear. I found a bit annoying that 'don't be daft' appears way too often, sometimes even one page after the other.
The cover is so lovely and radiates a lot of positive energy, in line with the message of the book. 
A recommended read for the summer or winter holidays, or for a quiet weekend, with many cupas and a lazy cat snuggling on the other side of the bed.
Disclaimer: I was offered the book via NetGalley.com, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book review: Sarong Party Girls, by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

After the tasty stories about Singaporean food, and not only, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is back with her first novel, a delicious story about girls trying to make their way to life. It may sound very general but, seriously, it is not such an easy task to work in the morning, look fine for the day and get the glamour look in the evening ready for the search of the one and only. Do not expect fairy tales with princes and frogs, but a lot of tips and stories from princesses with life experience. 
Of course (some) women should be independent and free and alone if they chose so, but just let the options free and respect everyone's choices. The events are following fast, like in a movie, because the Sarong Party Girls (SPG) have so many things to do. From trying a new bar where the supply of ang moh is always high to doing live research about how the girls from mainland China or the Philippines are getting their men nowhere else but in Singapore (a big problem it seems...as they might be worse than Jackie Chan), they are always busy. Plus, when they arrive back home in the morning in a limo to their modest governmental apartments where they live with their parents, expect to be faced by a curious or sad mother who is starting to lecture over and over again about what and why and with whom. Don't forget also about some lascive bosses and the danger of being sent to spent the rest of the active working years in a very boring office. No, it is not about money, it is about life choices. Serious life choices to be more precise.
Fann, Imo, Jazzy and Sher - the bubbling SPG, of course - do have one and only big plan: to land better than their parents. The biggest threat is to end up alone - or with an one - or more - gold tooth guy - and older enough to be refused the holy right of having a VIP table in clubs. Jazzy, who tell most of the story, seems the wisest one, always with some fresh short advice in the pocket. Like, for instance, 'if you want to meet guys, sometimes you must adventure a bit'. Only if you want to have Chanel babies and live overseas. Otherwise, there is always a supply of local guys, some of them outrageously rich and ready to spend couple of thousands for one fancy bottle of drink, and another one, and another one, till early in the morning. 
Another piece of advice from the wise Jazzy: "The thing about clubbing is, if you don't have some rich (or stupid) guy buying you drinks the whole night, your life is quite pathetic".
Wait to read a lot about drinks and clubs and some fancy places in Singapore, and much less about food. After reading it, it made me even more curious to visit the country one day. 
Although there is another book about fancy rich Singaporeans, the Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, 'comparaison fait pas raison' because the only common feature is that in both books there may be people outrageously rich. So what, it happens everywhere and this is not a reason enough to start making similarities, although it is such a human temptation after all. 
The stories are placed in Singapore and written in Singlish - a patois between different languages spoken there and English. At the beginning I was feeling that maybe it would have been good to have a small dictionary at the end, but I concluded that there is no need to, as you can easily understand what it is all about. And maybe also to make you curious to learn a couple the words yourself, just in case that, you know, you land in Singapore and you want to make a good impression. You never know...
The writing is sparkling and keeps you curious and with the spirit high. The language is colourful and wish there will be also an audio version of the book. Maybe a continuation too. 
The book will be published in July, and it is available for pre-order. 
Disclaimer: I was offered a review copy, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Bookish update: The weeks around new books

There were a lot of books in my life in the last days, besides the one that I separately review. As usual, I love to discover new authors and when their works are not available in English, my knowledge of other languages helps me a lot. Micaela Jary's book is an example when my German skills contributed to the discovery of a new and interesting author. It tells the story of three strong women that are looking for love, mystery and independence nowhere else than in the exotic Zanzibar. Each of them will develop their personal and love story, experiencing their own development and going through serious life challenges. Besides the good writing, the book is very well documented which gives an air of authenticity to the writing. When possible, would love to read more from this author. 
David Duchovny's Holy Cow, was such a hectic disappointment that I gave up trying to find anything interesting inside. Elsie Bovary, the cow, and Shalom the pig converted to Judaism which makes peace in the Middle East...nice game, but not for me.
Another one of those one star books is a chick lit whose only merit is to have a very good insight into shopping addiction. I took the Shopoholic and the Billionaire as an amusement while comuting on the bus and nothing more, without any interest to continue with the rest of the series. Last and least, from the 'do-not-read, please' category, a mystery that it is nothing but a mystery: Dying to Read, by Lorena McCourtney. To be more precise it is a 'cozy' mystery. If this means to read pages after pages without anything happening except a fat cat who is moving slowly and a woman defending a tree, I better give up this genre.
To warm up, I got through NetGalley.com, a dadaistic-inspired book of 'poetry', based on collages based on Yayoi Kusama and app-generated wordings. The book is supposed to be published at the end of April, but you can check #clivebirnie on Instagram for some samples of work. 
That's all for now, but promise to be back soon as I have some shelves overloaded with books, so many books!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book review: The Mindful Writer, by Dinty W. Moore

Moving on with your writing plans is never too late but the problem is to do it the right way. How you define exactly that 'right way' is another question, not answered in the so many inspirational books adorning the shelves of the libraries. I am not a constant supporter of the how-to-write-books, but I appreciate some good advices once in a while, because you should never stop learning.
Based on the Buddhist life principles, but using abundantly quotes from various authors, from Proust to Junot Diaz, the book is focused on opening the way to mindfulness, defined as 'the art of seeing with fresh eyes, thinking with an open mind, searching something new'. It suggest: 'Being mindful of what distracts you, of what leads you to walk away from your writing desk, of the inner voice that chides 'don't bother, the work isn't good enough', is the first step to turning off those distractions, or voices, and getting the work done'. This statement at the beginning of the book goes together with a later quote from Proust that I like very much: 'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes'. 
The inner peace and balance is very difficult to achieve nowadays, when we live 10 lives every day and we are surrounded in the most remoted place by at least 2 buzzing devices that we cannot live without. The advice of the writer is to 'slow down, listen, hear what it is to be heard instead of what we expect'. And once we are deeply turned into ourselves, we have the chance to discover our inner human feelings, like compassion, a necessary ingredient of a successful writing project. Who would buy a book full of hate?
Although the book does not have practical tips about how to better write and how to create complex characters but helps you to create the proper framework for developing your inner crafts and releasing your energies. It is quite an important part of the writing life too. 
The book will be released in June.
Disclaimer: I was offered the book for review via NetGalley.com, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book review: The Rejected Writers Book Club

Before I started this book, I was about to think at least twice: Oh, just one of those books about book clubs, where - predominantly - women readers are meeting and discuss Jane Austen books. Nothing against book clubs, as I am myself a proud member of some, but the literature about them is quite repetitive and at the end of the story, boring. 
But every single page of this book proved how wrong I was. Starting with the motto: "No man is a failure who has friends", it tells the adventurous stories of women part of a Rejected Writers Book Club. This unique literary idea - not sure if there is any such club in real life - means that respectable women writers of different ages from Southlea Bay get together to discuss their failed manuscripts and collect rejection letters. The group is about to go through a crisis when out of nowhere, Doris, the energical leader, receives an acceptance letter for her manuscript. The drama is about to follow: "I can't just go on being a rejected writer if I've been accepted. It's the rules". Right?
Janet Johnson, librarian at the local library is invited to be part of the group and from this moment on, her life is about to change. She is not only getting part of the gatherings - invitations she is too polite to reject - but she will play a big role in the big plans of the ladies travelling to San Franscisco for getting the manuscript out of publication. Besides the horror of being a published author, there is also something else which increases her panic. She included as part of the story some information found in a dairy of her aunt that once published will create a serious discomfort to her ailing mother, Grace. In fact, once they are away and the mother is left with the twins members of the club, unaware of the situation, they will read the stories found on a notebook belonging to the aunt, including the stories revealing some hidden lovers in Grace's life. Grace herself will make justice and will explain the real story at the end of the story, an episode which compared to the rest of the book is relatively weak from the literary point of view and also a bit unrealistic - like the rapid slipping between Douglas the Scottish lover who died and Will the American husband who was not dead. 
The story has a happy end, with the ladies succeeding to get the manuscript back - the acceptance letter was a mistake, as the clumsy secretary Andrea mistaken Love in the forest - Doris' manuscript where alien abduction meets washing machine and Jane Austen - for Love for the forest, the manuscript the ecological aware publisher was interested to accept. 
The art of writing is very entertaining, with many stories coordinated with high literary art, including that of a naughty raccoon and the very twin-pregnant perfectionist Janet's daughter. The road trip to San Francisco revealed the various personalities of the characters and bring a lot of interesting action to the story. 
Overall, a very good writing experience, and most probably will be curious to read some continuation of the adventures of those ladies. For sure they are never boring.

Disclaimer: I was offered the book part of the NetGalley.com network, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book review: The Expo Affair, by Geza Tatrallyay

As a former member of another Japanese World Expo, but on a more recent date - 2015 - I still remember about the small diplomatic gossips and various human challenges that I encoutered during one full year of intensive Japanese-style hard, hard work. However, I was very far away from the complicated and tensionated ambiance Geza Tatrallyay is preseting in his memoir, The Expo Affair.  
Born in Hungary and escaped with the family to Canada after the tragical outcome of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Tatrallyay plans to present his Cold War memories in several books, Expo Afair being the second in the series. It is a first person writing about his experiences during the time spent at Ontario Pavilion at Osaka 1970 World Expo. Compared to my own experience at the Aichi Expo 2015, not too many important things changed: lots of parties going on and on hosted by the Pavilions of the countries and regions represented, special housings created to host the representatives of the countries, restaurants hosted by pavilions where one can tastes various foods and local flavours, but also a lot of relationships in the making, many easily forgotten till the next party.
What I did not experience and I am deeply grateful for that, is the tension specific to the international times the Exhibition took place: the increasing problems in and protests against the Vietnam War, the Prague Revolution and the overpresent KGB. Assuming a neutral position, Japan preferred to offer equal representation to all countries presented, and to avoid any outburst of another hot conflict of the Cold War in Osaka. Thus, the immigration attempts of the Eastern residents were assumely discouraged, a position tacitly assumed by the US as well.
Trying to get a break from his unclear professional future, Geza goes to Japan to discover a new country, travel and enjoy life, but soon his thoughts will be took over by the beautiful Sasha, hostess at the Czechoslovak Pavilion. What in normal times it would have been easy and enjoyable, it reaches a high security level alert, after some of Sasha's colleagues, asked for help to defect to Canada. Plus, the relation was always under observation, as in general pure love between the two sides of the Iron Curtain was not encouraged. For state reasons though, the Soviet-shepperded secret services used to send beautiful ladies in Westerners beds.
The bohem - and very often playboy- Geza, together with his friend Cam, are working hard to find a solution, but when following the prime minister Trudeau green light, the girls are given a chance to make their way to freedom, the entire story is discovered and the girls gave up, being instead sent back to Czechoslovakia, as planned. There, their professional careers ended, part of the state punishment for attempting to defect. Was Sasha somehow involved in the leak? There is no answer offered, and we are left, as usual in the case of Cold War stories, with the suspicion only and many unanswered questions about the girls. In a world where having fun is a sin, the people are kept in fear and lack of trust to each other as an efficient way to maintain the dictatorship. 
The lesson learned for Geza was a confirmation that "Canada stands for freedom, opportunity, progress and humanity" - a position relatively new in the diplomatic history of the country, as during WWII, the Canadians were no so keen to accept European refugees looking for refuge following the same need of escaping in-humanity. As someone born in a communist country, he also realizes how important it is to fight against opression: "Perhaps, because it had been so difficult to winl our liberty, we could better understand its value, to ourselves and to others".
The book is an easy lecture, perfect for the end of the week retreats. Although dangerous Russian spies are often present, and some other security challenges too, most of the book is focused on the relationship with Sasha, with spicey and sexy details shared. Once in a while, I found a bit annoying the sarcasm towards the local Japanese, but during my stay at Aichi I had encountered such attitudes quite often. 
The abundance of red on the cover makes the impression dramatic, but the sand watch suits the race to get the girls out of the communist prison. 
The book is available for pre-orders on Amazon.com, with release date 1st of April this year.
Disclaimer: I was offered the book to review via Netgalley.com, but the opininons are, as usual, my own.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book review: Mamma mia, that's life, by Valerie Barona

I spent most part of my adult life as an expat in different corners of the world and I am 100% sure that my life is not about to get settled down any time soon. But thanks to the technology and social networks and Internet, it is very hard to feel alone and connecting with other people, especially if you are English speaker, was never easier. 
However, back in the 1970s, it was a different story, and I approached Valerie Barona's book with the curiosity of someone that wants to know about expat life back then. Barona, an Englishwoman, joined his husband in the tiny Italian village of Piussogna in 1977. With Italian language skills in the making and difficulties in adapting to the local market and sometimes, also to the exuberant and intrusive cultural habits, she is telling her story as an enumeration of events that followed her relocation: her first impressions, her husband's busy work, the birth of children, their vacations back in Dorset, the first contacts with the English speakers, the Foreign Club Expat Women, her first jobs. Do not expect anything very dramatic or some ups and downs or serious family misunderstandings that make the expat stories spicier. The story telling goes smoothly, with sociological and anthropological observations once in a while. 
Most of this expat story is focused on the Piussogna and there are not too many trips outside the geographical area of Northern Italy where the village is situated. 
Interestingly, there are a couple of advices and practices regarding the children upbringing in a bilingual family: 'As well as giving them an English upringing, I also hoped to install in them a love of the place where I was born'. Herself a teacher by education, Valerie tries to adapt to the challenges of a different teaching and educational systems which starts with a delayed diploma recognition. These were the times as nowadays, thanks to the various agreement within the EU countries, such challenges are mostly out of question.
What happened to her after so many years of life in Italy. She keps her foreigner essence: 'I was and would always be the Inglesina, or the English girl'. Which, in my opinion, it has a good part too, as after all, we should remain consistent to ourselves, despite acquiring new languages and getting familiar with different cultures. 
From the point of the reading experiences, I found the pace too slow and too non-evenemential and author-focused but without too many noteworthy occurences taking place for pages. Especially the beginning of the book was quite difficult to swallow. It is the kind of book to read near the fire during one simple winter afternoon.
I liked the image from the cover, but the typeset is not the happiest choice and too much writing overcharges the space and diminishes the charm of the picture. 

Disclaimer: I was offered the book for review part of the Netgalley.com choice of books, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Latest bookish update

The last week was a very good one for the blog, with a lot of new collaborations started and new opportunities of visibility seized. As a stay-at-home mom for the next months at least, I am ready to discover a lot of new books and further share my recommendations and also move forward with my writing. I was a bit disappointed though when it comes to the list of books I've read, as most of them left me with a sour taste of kitsch. 
For instance, Bombay Mixx. I like to read chick lit - a lot, in fact - but this one gave me the impression of a very bad soap opera. Everyone is getting drunk, too much, things are moving too fast from being a boss to a lover - although married with children - and everyone is getting pregnant with the wrong person, including half brother with half sister. Seriously! It was too much.l
Barbara Delinsky's novella What She Really Wants smoothly brought things to the everyday reality reminding that marriage is a work in process. Apparently, finding a gift for someone you seem to know for ages is not an easy task and sometimes you need to go back to reality and know each other better. Simplicity is more precious than gold and diamonds and I enjoyed the wise lessons of this book that still can be downloaded for free on Kindle.

After that, I went through a new disapointment, another episode from the Amish stories by Kristina Ludwig I read before and also did no enjoy. I was interested in The Amish Valentine due to my interest in the Amish world as such - the author herself is not Amish but lived in the neighbourhoud of some communities. The story is there, the love in the air, but somehow, the pace is too slow and the characters are missing a certain strength and personality that make you really be part of the story. 
To end the week on a different literary note, I put all my hopes in the 5th part of the Arkane series Day of the Vikings by JF Penn - that I received as a reader copy -, whose books I'd read recently one after the other. The good part is that you can start with any of the books - I myself started with One Day in Budapest - and you can still understand what the book is about. Compared to the other books, I did find the book a bit too slow and less eventful, although it is a lot of blood and an interesting past reader. This time, Dr. Morgan Sierra is dealing and win over a strange group of new-Vikings, thirsty for blood and apocalyptic settings. As all the other books it is well researched and every detail of the story is carefully crafted. 
As for now, happy reading week everyone, more books are waiting for me now! Keep in touch with good reading news!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book review: Learning another language, by Tiago B. de M. Dinez

Regardless how many languages you know already, learning a new language is always an intellectual challenge. Some languages are easy and come along faster than the others. For some - like German in my case - it seems that 10 centuries will still not be enough to manage it at a reasonable level. Given my personal history with languages that started long before I was able to read and write, I am always interested in reading stories of linguistic experiences. 
This book is a short confession sharing the experience of the Brazil-born author with English. He started to learn it after 30 and succeeded in a relatively short amount of time to manage it good enough in order to get successfully the TOEFL test and further apply for college in the US. 
'The key to learning a specific language is to listen, read, write and speak in that particular language', he says and I completely agree with. Creating a linguistic environment of books, TV and people speaking the language always helps with improving the learning process. This is the reason why probably many expats in Berlin fail to improve their German, because they keep being islands of Englishness and they do not have any barrier against this. 
However, I disagree with the author that learning grammar should occur relatively after acquiring the verbal and understading fluency. My personal experience is that the best is to try to learn everything together. 
The modern technologies available nowadays can significantly improve the quality of the learning process. One can order e-Books in the language of choice and use different language apps to advance. The author does not mention apps and explained that did not feel interested in using music to learn English. In my case, both did an excellent work for improving my language. The suggestion to use Whispersync option for the audio versions of the ebooks is excellent, but somehow, it is a pitty that as for now, there are so many languages not covered by the current e-options. YouTube may offer more tips and opportunities though, with more languages covered.
Another tip that I actually used during my experience of teaching French to adults is: 'If you want to learn another language, why don't you find a good subject to study in the language that you are learning?'. It makes the conversation interesting and also help to acquire specialized vocabulary. 
Writing is always the most challenging part, especially if you are playing with words as I do. The author recommends to try finding someone, preferably a teacher or a native speaker, that can check the grammar and make the necessary corrections. As in the case of speaking, the first time is hard, it can be the same the second or the third time, but it is important to be perseverent and keep working. The hard work always pays off. 
Other tip that I used long long time ago when I was improving my French skills in college and that I recently used with German is to read loud. It helps to get familiar with the language but also to get familiar with words.
There are many things that are not covered by this book, for instance, that sometimes it is better to just go into the language and avoid using a dictionary all the time or the importance of visual slides for speeding up the learning process. Everyone has his or her own experience with languages, and the more you learn the more you improve.
The book is well written, simple and clear, with good tips and inspiration for everyone about to start learning a language. A recommended lecture.

Disclaimer: I downloaded a free copy from Freebooksy, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why everyone loves to write and read book series

The first from Arkane series, free on Kindle
I do not have too many favourite series. I loved Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and later I discovered the Harry Potter and maybe some Galsworthy not so entertaining family sagas. Because I am not a telly fan and my time was usually limited, I do not have favourite TV series so my interest for both writing and reading series was usually limited.
From romance to thriller and children book, everyone is nowadays preparing long series of over 3 books at least. Mystery novels may be the best suited for such installments, as well as children books, as you can follow a character through different episodes and challenges. It also has a significant marketing advantage, as allows the writer to promote his or her books in a very organised way, eventually with a free book on Kindle. If you like the book you will be most likely tempted to continue with the rest. 
In the case of the writing planning, it helps to better manage the writing process, with a plan that may help you to organise the research and writing as such and better plan the release and promotion.
I gave a lot of tries to different series and I still have lots of books on my Kindle that may promise some pleasant surprises. However, I found it is not easy to keep the reader entertained and have plots equally interesting. Probably, you better be honest and decide when to stop before becoming too redundant and boring, like in life, in general.
For now, I enjoyed reading a lot Harry Potter series and could not wait to wait for the next adventures. This is what I think the successful series. When you finish one book and want to see what is going on next, what are the challenges and trials of your imaginary characters. 
By far, my favourite series in a while are the Arkane, by JFPenn. I started with One Day in Budapest, which I really liked it and most recently, continued with the first three books from the series, which I'd read one after the other. There is a lot of action, surprising changes of the plot, good writing and well profiled characters. It uses the nowadays interest for religious mysteries with some fragrance of political conspiracies, but she does it right with wisdom, knowledge and talent. Although I was not so in line with some of the opinions expressed in the Arch of Blood, it still keeps me interested in the adventures of the special Morgan Sierra, and right now I am much into the Day of the Vikings, that I received as a free complimentary gift. 
Overall, I like reading good series, but I reckon that it is not easy to find good ones. For writers, it is a good plan to create some, as it helps with the marketing and other promotion goals, but also creates a steady and curious readership. I am not sure I will start writing series right now, as I am more focused on my foodie essays and other non-fictio projects, but if I will, it will be either a mystery or an interesting thriller.