Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope 2014 finds you in good health and good spirits and wish all of you the best of luck in the new year.

As for this blog, the new year bring new opportunities and new challenges. For that reason, some things are going to be changing on “An Elusive Hero”.

First of all, starting next week, I’ll be switching my posting dates to Tuesday and Thursday.

On Tuesdays, I will mostly post about Switzerland and anything of interest.

Thursdays will be reserved for my fiction writing and the continuation of my story, “An Elusive Hero”.

Changing the schedule from three times to two times a week gives me the chance to focus on writing longer and higher-quality texts. This year, I’m expecting to write more about interesting journeys within Switzerland and again have extensive coverage of the Zurich Film Festival and other high profile events in the country. As for “An Elusive Hero”, the story, this is the year I’ll hopefully be able to bring it to a fitting conclusion.

I really enjoyed making my last video and hope to publish vlogs on a regular basis in 2014. My vlog will focus on books, so my writing on that topic will probably decline. Please check out my YouTube channel and subscribe to stay updated!

Also, I’m working on a German language project with a friend, which is due to launch early this year. Even with a reduced schedule on my blog, I’ll be able to write and do something I love on various outlets throughout the Internet.

I want to thank everyone who read “An Elusive Hero” in 2013 again and hope to see you again in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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Weekly Reviews: “Catching Fire” and “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”

This week I’m taking a look at one of the hottest blockbusters of the winter and the debut novel of Marisha Pessl. Both of them captured much of my imagination and attention over the last week.

Catching Fire

I touched upon Catching Fire a bit in last week’s news post and was able to see the movie twice, first on Thursday and then in 4K on Sunday. And I didn’t mind seeing it twice at all, as the second time around I was able to focus on tiny details such as the height difference between leads Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson and the attempts of the director to hide it.

The movie itself did not disappoint (otherwise I wouldn’t have watched it twice). It stays very true to the book with some understandable omissions. The cast, headlined by Ms. Lawrence, is fantastic and extremely well cast. Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland have remarkable screen presence, while Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz shine in their roles as members of “Team Katniss”. The other tributes, especially Sam Claflin and Jena Malone, portray two of the most beloved characters, Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason, very much in line with the novel.

A big reason for the faithful adaptation is the inclusion of author Suzanne Collins as an executive producer. Director Francis Lawrence does a great job in the pacing of the movie. He gives important scenes in the build-up to the 75th Hunger Games enough time to develop and breathe. However, when the actions picks up in the second part of the film, it is gripping, frightening and dangerous.

The third novel, “Mockingjay”, will be split in two motion pictures (as seems to be normal now) with the first part arriving next November. If it reaches the quality of “Catching Fire”, the wait will be well worth it. Definitely catch the movie in cinemas if you’re able to.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

First off, Marisha Pessl is extremely talented. I adored her second book “Night Film” (mentioned in this post). We will be discussing it with the Uncanny Bookclub this Sunday at 5pm, so if you’ve read the book and are in the region of Zurich, feel free to stop by the Cabarat Voltaire!

The protagonist of “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” is Harvard undergrad Blue Van Meer, who starts to recount the events of her senior year in High School. After moving around a lot with her intellectual, Swiss-born father Gareth Van Meer, they settle in Stockton, North Carolina. In the little town, Blue, who lost her mother as a young child, catches the eye of the extravagant teacher Hannah Schneider. Blue is invited into a group of students, who meet with Hannah once a week and seem to adore her. But not everything with Ms. Schneider is as it seems. When she dies, inexplicably hanged, Blue tries to find out how and why it happened.

The book is not as accessible as it would seem and it takes a while to get used to the millions of references and footnotes Ms. Pessl includes in the novel. Readers and Movie buffs will find obscure references to movies and books long forgotten. Some of them are real and some are fictional.

Blue is a likeable, but ultimately very self-centered character with an interesting and annoying father. However, I found the intellectualism of her father to be tiring at times.Ms. Schneider and her group of students (Jade, Leulah, Milton, Nigel and Charles) are far more intriguing. Finding out their story drives the book forward until the death of mysterious Ms. Schneider. From there, the book focuses more on Blue and picks up its pace considerably, which I enjoyed a lot.

I had troubles getting into the book, due to the constant references and the difficulty to grasp the ideas of Blue’s strange father. But with every page I read, the more I got entranced with the story. The book is very gripping and very well put together. The highlight for me was how well it all unfolds in the end, which I’m not going to spoil here.

I believe her second book is more polished, but I can only recommend “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”, because it’s combines thriller and coming-of-age elements into a gripping story that manages to be both funny and sad.

These are my two reviews for the week. With December coming up next week, it’s time for my best of lists, starting with my favorite books of 2013 next Wednesday! My story “An Elusive Hero” returns on Friday with chapter 25. So if you’ve liked my writing so far, please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

A Halloween to Remember

The highlight of last week definitely was Halloween on Thursday. This was the first year I’ve participated in the festivities and I did so for one big reason: A major discount on books at my favorite Bookshop.

As you might know, I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, so it was clear from the get-go that I’d portray the boy that lived.

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Decked out in Gryffindor gear, I made my way to the Bookshop, where I then spent a few hours reading through books and mulling over some very difficult choices. How much money should I spend? Would I be spending too much? Which YA novels are truly worth buying? Which book about Kennedy should I get?

I had made a list of books I absolutely wanted to get beforehand, but I swapped some of them out to save for another time. I ended up buying six books for myself and in hindsight, I probably should have bought some more. Oh well. So which books did I get?

Of course, I tried to buy books of different styles and genres. In the fantasy genre, I bought the fourth book of the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R Martin. “A Storm of Swords”, the third book, was my favorite book of the series so far, as I found many of the storylines to get more interesting. “A Feast for Crows” will probably lie around for a few months, before the HBO series will make me want to read it.

I also got the debut novel by Marisha Pessl, “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”. I loved her thriller “Night Film” (described in this post), so I’m eager to read more from the talented American author.  The novel is written from the perspective of a young Harvard student reliving her last year of High School and built up as a curriculum. I’m sure I’m in for another thrilling ride.

With the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination nearing, an avalanche of books on his life (and death) are being released. I’m not interested in conspiracy theories about the nature of his murder. So I was extremely pleased to find a wonderful book titled “Letters of JFK”, which is a collection of letters sent to and by him. I’ve read a few chapters and they make me long for the time when people still sent each other elegant and classy letters.

The most interesting book I bought was “S” by J.J Abrams and Doug Dorst. If you have the chance, you should definitely check it out. The book is home to various stories, one of them playing in the margins, where an undergraduate and a grad student exchange notes on the nature of this novel written by the elusive (and fictional) novelist V.M Straka. The first few pages were extremely gripping and I’m looking forward to immerse myself in the beautiful book as soon as I have more time.

And last but not least is the one book I’ve finished reading from my impressive haul, the dystopian YA novel “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth. The book ends the immensely popular “Divergent” series (which I’ve written about here) and what an ending it is. It’s fast-paced and gripping. The ideas portrayed are fresh and personally, I loved the ending. It is definitely my favorite book of the three.

I hope I’ll be able to talk about these books more after I’ve read them. But otherwise, how was your Halloween? Which books would you have gotten with a 50% discount? Let me know here or on Twitter!

I’m back on Friday with Chapter 23 of “An Elusive Hero”.

Sincerely yours,

Albert

August reading recommendations

A few months ago, I published my tips for summer reading and I can say I have progressed quite a bit through the books I wanted to read finishing A Clash of Kings by George R.R Martin and the Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman. I haven’t gotten very far on my non-fiction reading, because the world of fiction will not let me go. Currently I’m reading A Player of Games by Iain M. Banks and the Unwritten Series of graphic novels written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross. But every time I stop by my favorite bookshop, other books catch my attention, pushing some of my picks further down the to-do list. I decided to recommend some of the books <I read the last month.

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