mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-11-07 08:27 pm

Books Round-up: November 1

92.

Hornby, Nick: Funny Girl
The lives and exploits of comedy wireless and TV writers in the sixties. This part of the book I adored- the characters were believable and lovable, the plot funny and engaging. I was not too keen on their last hurrah in the 2000ies, but I can see the merits of this ending.

91.

London, Jack: White Fang
Doesn't everybody want to be Weedon Scott? I remember reading this when I was around ten and disliking it because there were hardly any female characters who interacted with White Fang, while my experience with my household and raising dogs was that most of the work was done by my mother-the-hunter and grandmother, though that was mostly due to the fact that my granddad, also a hunter, was a disabled WWII veteran.
I love White Fang and the dignity Jack London lends to his animal characters, though White Fang's body count is a bit worrying. I'm also not convinced that a dog as badly mistreated as White Fang would recover so quickly, but who can resist this scene:
"What of his joy, the great love in him, ever surging and struggling to express itself, succeeding in finding a new mode of expression. He suddenly thrust his head forward and nudged his way in between the master’s arm and body."
Awwww.

90.

Katja Schwarz, Katja; Trost, Rainer: Kinder Und Jugendliche Mit Autismus-Spektrum-Storung: Neue Wege Durch Die Schule
A lot of the content of this book weren't really news, but it was an interesting overview of the more specific needs of children with Asperger's. I'm very pleased to note that a lot of the things mentioned as helpful in this book are things that I already do, since I consider clear language and structure to be something that most students find very beneficial.
Other things (replacing oral with written assignments, for example) I found less helpful for my subject (languages - you do have to talk sometimes, and the kids with Asperger's I teach right now hate writing and love speaking (it's the language they speak on Star Trek!) or don't mind it).
Still, I was very glad to be reminded of the basics again and be able to recheck whether I was still sticking to things that are helpful for students with this symptom and that make my classes safe for them.

89.

Kaling, Mindy: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
As someone who neither watches SNL nor The Office it surprised me how much I still enjoyed this biography.

88.

Frau Freitag, Frl. Krise: Der Altmann ist tot
This was a very slow crime novel in which two teachers who usually work at a school in a multicultural and "difficult" part of Berlin solve the murder of a sleazy colleague of theirs. They are helped by former students, friends, boyfriends, and whole lot of "coincidences" that make this book very hard to buy.
As usual, they get the language students use spot on and it is funny, but especially during their various dress-up games they're less convincing than The Three Investigators (which might be a German thing? Does any one else remember the three investigators and their disguise shenanigans...?). I dis not buy it. Their attempts at sleuthing are fumbled and its a miracle they don't get in more trouble than they do, the resolution is foreseeable.
They also treat a close friend ("Onkel Ali") pretty exploitatively, using him as bait for one of their plots and then teaching him how to "be Turkish" to get rid a suspects unwanted romantic advances, and since they're middle-class Germans with German ancestors this seems... off.


87.

Sprenger, Marilee: Damit was hängen bleibt
Nothing entirely new in these seven steps for more effective learning, and the examples don't really fit my subjects and generally always require more prep-time than I have for any classroom I teach in, but the general gist is helpful and presented in a motivating way. I can't see any of this implemented any time soon, though, as long as everything in our work depends entirely on every person's individual intrinsic motivation to do better than before and does not come with regular team meetings - at least at my school. Innovating alone surely isn't effective.

86.

Maitland, Karen: The Vanishing Witch
Was alright. I didn't really get that attached to the characters living in the city, but did feel for the rebels.

85.

Carey, M. R.: The Girl With All the Gifts
The zombie apocalypse from the point of view of a gifted pre-teen. Who could resist! The characters all make sense and are complex and compassionately portrayed, with their flaws and motivations.
The resolution of the book was fitting with the premise of the book, but really depressing. As always in a zombie apocalypse setting it isn't advisable to get too attached to the characters, but as always, I did, anyway.
Also, to the end, I wasn't sure who to root for, whose new beginning to hope for in this end of the world.

84.

Mats; Bergmark Elfgren, Sara: Feuer
I'm a hopelessly devoted fan. Developed female teenage characters with believable flaws and interactions and insecurities and strength and growth who continue to be badass. And have magic. And save the world. While struggling with school and parents.Read more... )

83.

Strandberg, Mats; Bergmark Elfgren, Sara: Schlüssel
Back in Engelsfors, the remaining Circle witches are still busy trying to stop the apocalypse. Can they trust the strange forces trying to protect them? What about the Council, can they be trusted after all when they offer help? It is engaging enough for me to keep reading so as to finish it in two sittings and is still as character-driven as the first two instalments.Read more... )
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-10-31 08:02 pm

Books round-up: October

82.

Heppermann, Christine: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
Feminist fairy tale poetry, a really enjoyable combination. The subjects often address issues of body image and self-worth as well as eating disorders, sometimes a little unsubtle, often times enjoyable through the lens of fairy tales. Some experiences are too US America specific to resonate with me, others seem truly universal.

81.

Abedi, Isabel: Isola
Only read this book if its in your library, or don't, because you already know it and the cardboard characters never really come to life.Read more... )

80.

Rothfuss, Patrick: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
More later, I have to reread this a couple of times to savour it. For now: The only thing that spoiled my reading experience of this beautiful volume was the author's constant need to apologise for this story which isn't run-off-the-mill and normal. This is incredible to me, and wrong - more of an apology would be needed for a story that is yet again the same as any other story.
This wasn't, and it was beautiful. I could have done without the frame story of Auri waiting for Kvothe, as I'd have loved to hear more about her time before the beginning of the plot of the Kingkiller Chronicle and her relationship with the masters. As it is, it remains a charming and saddening insight into her wonderous world in the belly of the university.

79.

Snicket, Lemony: Shouldn't You be in School?
I really enjoy this new series, though not as much as I did the ASoUE.

78.

Jung, Marius: Singen können die alle!: Handbuch für Negerfreunde
Sometimes cynical, sometimes funny account of racism in Germany by a black comedian. He talks about his youth growing up as the black child of white middle class parents, his experiences as an actor in a country that still doesn't really realise not all of its inhabitants are whitee and white wannabe saviours.
I don't agree with the fact that political correctness is a bad thing, though I agree that it should not be the only underlying reason for changing one's behaviour.

77.

Harris, Joanne: Gospel of Loki
I like this modern version of the Lokabrenna, which works as a prequel to Runemarks, though some details are different. The contemporary phrases that crop up annoyed me vaguely to the and I didn't see their point. They didn't endear the characters to me, if that was the idea.
Loki is as entertaining and human and as a prequel he couldn't have been much different, though I'd really like to see a Loki that does not suffer from this civilising softening. It makes us understand the characters as humans, but in their original context they were different, revered as forces of nature and arbiters of life a and death. they were also human, of course, but they were still fundamentally different. The difference seems to have home lost and turns gods into powerful mortals, superheroes. In the words of the novel, named and tamed.

76.

Strandberg, Mats; Bergmark Elfgren, Sara: Zirkel
This is the first book in a long, looong time that I found that is:
1.) centred more or less exclusively on female teenaged characters,
2.) whose main plot isn't a love plot,
3.) who don't get raped.
Read more... )

75.

Elsberg, Marc: Zero
The book seems more hurried and breathless than
his last one and less convincing. It is still an entertainingly fast-paced thriller, but the plot has its holes. Especially the random underground chases in Vienna and New York were too much, and while the concerns it raises about tech and choice are valid, it doesn't always do that in a very subtle way. I am also not overly keen on the ableism and the way neuroatypical people are portrayed here.

74.

Carey, Jaqueline: Kushiel's Dart
I really enjoyed this book, and the world, and the fact that there was not as much slut-shaming and whorephobia as might have been expected in a book in which the main protagonist is a prostitute. The world's religious system is believable and interesting and the characters lovable. I don't recall it passing the Bechdel test, but there are several strong female characters and some of them are queer.
I did not like that there are no romantic relationships between women, hardly any sadistic or dominant women, no sadistic/dominant women who aren't evil, no romantic relationships that aren't heterosexual. One toe outside the box and then straight back in

73.

Boie, Kirsten: Ringel, Rangel, Rosen
Read more... )

72.

Beagle, Peter S.; Gillis, Peter; De Liz, Renae; Dillon, Ray: The Last Unicorn
I have to admit that I've only read the book two or three times and have seen the movie version so often that I have no memory of how well the book version translates into the movie, which is one of my favourites. So I was not so much worried about the book as I was about my memories of the movie, but it translates, as I suppose this book does into all possible media. The short passages of text seem well-chosen, although as I mentioned I don't remember the text well-enough to judge, but my gut says they are.
The artwork is stunningly beautiful and I could stare at some of those panels for hours. The one thing that bugged me was that Schmendrick and Molly have undergone a serious makeover and the way the human unicorn looks is scary because she is so thin.

71.

Brosgol, Vera: Anya's Ghost
I heard from this via Graphic Novels 4 Girls and really liked it. Anya and the difficulties she faces as a Russian immigrant ring true, although it is strange to me that she doesn't speak Russian at home, though I do understand that would be inconvenient for story purposes. I'd have liked seeing more interactions between Siobhan and Anya, but I can see that it wouldn't have fit into this very compact tale.
I was also positively surprised by this graphic novel as a graphic novel - it's good to see that there are diverse and positive role-models for younger girls at least, even though I find it hard to see the same applying to the "mature" end of this genre, which features gratuitous boob and gore panels more than truly mature topics.

70.

Green, John: Looking for Alaska
The over-the-top love that my students have for this book shows me that I'm probably missing out. But I just don't understand it. I see very interchangeable, uninteresting characters involved in things that I, as a teenager, would have had no interest or part in in their situation because it seems designed to make things worse for them (no matter how bored or depressed, taking up drinking and smoking was never that attractive to me). Though the signs of characters' mental health issues are there in places, they don't ring true to me. The romance plot is superficial and only shows once more how mundanely boring "Pudge" is.

69.

König, Tim: Ich bin ein Kunde, holt mich hier raus
I'm so embarrassed to have read that, even though I did get the audiobook at a very reduced price. It's really bad.
Read more... )

68.

Pratchett, Terry: Dragons at Crumbling Castle.
Adorable short stories presented in a way that I can see children liking as much as adult fans.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-09-30 12:14 am

Books round-up: September

66.

Vernon, Ursula: Dragonbreath
I bought this because I like Ursula Vernon's drawing style and thought this might be fun to have in our class library for my ESL students. While the drewings did not disappoint I'm not sure that my ESL students will understand the language well enough for them to be reading this book, and the ones who do might find this a bit too juvenile. The ones old enough to have past the mortal coolness threshold would benefit from trickier stuff, so I am not sure what to do with this apart from giving it to my wife, who adores all dragons.

65.

Lowry, Lois: The Giver.
The experience of reading about this dystopian future of a society which has embraced Sameness and assigned spouses, children and jobs and a very strictly regulated, safe life devoid of choices ages well.
I think it makes sense that I loved it when I was eleven, but I am not sure that my students would still enjoy it as much as I did. I'm also very apprehensive about the movie adaptation, because Jonas looks quite a bit older in that one, so I am rather sure that Gabe did not make the cut and they'll focus more on Jonas and his budding lust for Fiona.

64.

Harris, Joanne: Runemarks.
Completely blew my mind in some parts and bored me in others. What a wild, unpredictable ride! The characters were fun, though I didn't really far for those not Maddy, Loki, Skadi or Hel. I didn't like Maddy's relationship with her believed biological faster, it seemed too distant to be entirely realistic to me. I'm also not too find about the axe someone seems to have tho grind with Christianity.

63.

Kirkman, Robert and Moore, Tony: The Walking Dead Vol.1: Days Gone Bye.
You probably have to like comic books to get like this. In this one, zombies and people with breasts or with muscles do things that ordinary people with intact brains (living or dead) most likely wouldn't do.
The artists don't look at women the way they do at men. Men have various looks and have diverse features, women have large breasts and make-up in spite of the apocalypse (no, female eyes don't naturally look like that). They can't draw fat women worth a damn, too, but, er, points for trying. All in all you get 2D male characters and 1D female characters (with DD breasts, though). You also a really oddly placed gratuitous sex scenes out of nowhere with full-page female nude panels and female characters reflecting on the fact that she is only staying with her partner because he's so good at sex. Sure, sure.
So, all in all, you get the picture of
the target audience is and why I'm not it. If something contains enough sex and gore to make the target audience adults I expect the content to be more mature, too, and less concerned with "Yay, boobs!" or "Cor, all the brains are gooing out! Yeuch!".
All in all, I'm fairly surprised, butt his has nowhere near the depth or emotional impact of Telltale's rendition, something which I also missed in the TV series.

62.

Gaiman, Neil and Vess, Charles: Instructions
I love this poem, and I really enjoy the illustrated version.

61.

Pritchard, John: Going to church: a user's guide.
Interesting tidbits on the stages of faith, and the different kinds of vicars and churches.

60.

Kerman, Piper: Orange is the new Black.
I like the non-dramatic nature of this account. What does bother me still is that it takes this white middle class woman to make people care about the prison system and prison life. I can't BELIEVE what they did to Piper's and Pennsatucky's relationship in the TV series, for example. It makes much  more sense in the book.
I also loved the chapter on Mother/Daughter surrogate constellations in prison because that sort of bonded hierarchy is very in keeping with what I've observed in (obviously far less restrictive) women-only groups."
I'm not surprised, but still confused why the TV series would eroticise and dramatize Piper Kerman's stay to this extent. Of course lesbian sex sells, but if it wasn't part of Kerman's day-to-day reality in prison the way it is in TV OITNB, why force it in?

59.

Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda: Americanah.
I had a long review written for this, but it disappeared. The short version: Culture, continents, integration, finding yourself and race in Africa vs. race in the USA, this book had everything. I didn't really like the ending, which I found a little too convenient, but overall, it is a great read.

58.

Vermes, Timur: Er ist wieder da (and Christoph Maria Herbst as a narrator)
In this critical comedy Hitler is back in 2011 and finds fans on YouTube and on TV. This is a dangerous book, although I think that it does nail certain trends that do open people up to extreme movements and how prone people still are to fall for rhetorically clever extremism that is not too on the nose and can blend in.
It's also not unhelpful to see that people you find funny can be responsible for horrible, terrible crimes. I would like to believe that this helps people to realise that you have to have a differentiated, critical view and really listen instead of making but based blanket statements of "Vegetarians who like children can't do wrong", "I've known that guy all my life he would never" up to "well maybe it wasn't all bad".
However, in the current climate that glorifies villains and their sop stories to explain away their crimes and instead swerved to humanize the criminal and take away any focus on the victims, who often stay faceless.

57.

Wiedmann, Anna and Daniel: Fuck you, Kita!: Eine unglaublich wahre Geschichte.
Teacher and person doing "something with media" have a child, search for a place in one of the kindergartens, find out what a hassle that is and how crazy kindergartens can be these days, and recont episodes of their daily lives as new parents.
Read more... )

56.

Rowell, Rainbow: Fangirl
Shy young woman goes to colleague, is shy, finds friends delivered to her dorm room, meets young men, falls for young man, dates young man. Oh and also she's a twin and her father's mentally ill and her mother left her when she was eight. I really enjoyed those second bits about the main character befriending her much more interesting roomie, or the complex relationship she has with her absent mother, or her twin. I did not enjoy (read before) fanfic, which sadly showed up too much for my liking. Or the bits about her love life.
Read more... )

55.

Benni-Mama: Große Ärsche auf Kleinen Stühlen
The mother of toddler talks about her attempts at trying to provide her son with one of the rare places in Berlin's kindergartens. She only succeeds in getting him into a Kinderladen, the kindergarten of a parents' initiative who funded their own. There, she encounters helicpoter parents, parents overly invested in their children's diet, as she puts it: "The only normal people in a kindergarten are the children." It's meant to be funny, and is, but the gender norms are really scary. If this book can be trusted, the default is still that the mums are the ones that bear the brunt of the work.

54.

Bridges, Robert (ed.) Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Complete Poems
I have to admit that I skipped the platonic dialogue. This is a very readable edition of the poems which I had hoped would feature more annotations.
Read more... )

53.

Wales: A Nation in Verse.
To start of with something positive: this collection of poems has the always pleasing Welsh dragon on its cover.
Read more... )
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-08-31 11:30 pm

Books round-up: August

52.

Frost, Toby: Space Captain Smith
It was... overall ok, really. You will most likely enjoy this book if you already like action comedies and using the words "romp" and "tongue in cheek". I don't, really, so I didn't. The British Space Empire parts were a fun premise, but the cardboard characters didn't deliver, for me. Also, I didn't get all the pop culture references, which I didn't think mattered that much, though. I don't think that pop culture references alone don't necessarily make things funny. The humour also wasn't always right for me- I don't think "does my butt look big in this?" is always funny, for one.
I don't like books that are trying hard to be funny, and this one did. The unrealistic action scenes were funny, but too over-the-top, some of the main character's convictions on being right about things like the inferiority of female characters and entities or their role weren't dealt with as funnily as the author may have intended. Complex characters this book doesn't have, but I still found myself caring about them enough to finish the book.

51.

Healy, Christopher: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.
Crocky and I were reading this together and liked the unexpectedly complex characters, especially Briar was a pleasant surprise. The mixture between very PG-friendly lack of graphic detail and the violence getting stronger was a bit strange, because it is not likely that everybody survived the violence they encountered, but we aren't shown any of the dead bodies and there are no described corpses or dead bodies, so there's that. The various love stories bumble along, but they stay interesting.

50.

Gier, Kerstin: Silber: Das Zweite Buch der Träume.
Crocky and I listened to thsi together, and did finish it, but it was extremely boring, and the heroine suffers from loss of intelligence ever since she got together with her equally boring boyfriend.
My favourite example is the part in the book in whcih she believes someone to be in grave danger and it would be sensible for her to go and warn someone, at least the next day, but she completely forgets about it for two chapters because her boyfriend shows up. Her

49.

Gier, Kerstin: Silber: Das Erste Buch der Träume.
This book read like the premise for a very boring, very bad teenage het-romance story written by somebody who can write well but who can't write interesting characters. It was entertaining, Kerstin Gier certainly can write and knows her teenagers, but there are a lot of flaws. The short version: the way she is Not Like All Those Other Girls while not only being Exactly Like Those Other Girls, and also being One Of The Guys while berating other girls to backstab other girls. Also, all the male characters are assholes and don't treat her with the respect they'd give one of their own group.
Read more... )

48.

Abdel-Fattah, Randa: Does My Head Look Big In This?
This novel detailing a "hyphenated Australian" teenager's experiences while wearing the hijab full time and her life in general offered me an interesting insight into multi-cultural Australia in the early 2000ies. I don't know much about this topic and the stories I'd heard before mostly detailed how horrid everything is for non-Anglo immigrants and especially for indigenous people.
Refreshingly, the author writes believable teenage girls that differ from each other in more than just one describing adjective (the NERDY one, the RELIGIOUS one, etc.). Many authors who write about teenagers can learn a LOT from this book, especially most of the insipid Fantasy romance types whose characters fall into this category.

47.

Healy, Christopher: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.
This fairytale retelling mash-up of the stories of several Princes Charming won't change middle grade literature, but it's fun, will most likely be enjoyed by some the (rather younger) target demographic, and had us chuckling.
Read more... )
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-07-31 11:25 pm

Books round-up: July

46.

Robinson, James A., Acemo─člu, Daron: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty.
It's makes its main points, "democracy and a certain level of centralisation are important for success" and "extractive regimes cause nations to fail" over almost 500 pages, with many examples. I enjoyed it, overall, and I believed it, though I am not knowledgeable enough to fact-check the economy behind it all.
Towards the end, it seemed to grow tame, too. I'd have wanted a more detailed insight into the US and other western states, because though the book keeps making the point that extractive regimes lead to the downfall of a nation, nowhere does it take the plunge and say what else these regimes can look like and that they don't need to be governments. It seems pretty clear that if you look at the US in the right light, the very companies who shrotlisted it as their book of the year have an awful lot in common with the extractive people causing the poverty in millions throughout history.

45.

Davis, Lindsey: Enemies at Home
I liked the last Flavia Albia mystery and this one was no exception. Even though the solution to the crime is not entirely unexpected the characters really grow on me. The outlook that slaves in Rome could expect is expectedly bleak and the characters react as unsympathetically as one might expect, though this is hard to bear especially from the main characters (especially coming from Flavia I'd have hoped more, though that, in turn, would not have been realistic, I suppose).

44.

Levy, Michael: Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion
As "Western person travels to "exotic" location and writes about it" books go, this was a good one. I'm neither very familiar with Jewish culture in the US nor rural Chinese culture, and the book offered both. The cultural divide and the difficulties the characters met bridging them were fascinating as well.

43.

Peters, Julie Anne: Lies my girlfriend told me
I really wanted to like this book, but can't. I think that under the right circumstances, say, if you were a very middle-class US-American female teenager and had had a struggle with coming out, then that makes sense. A lot of the issues Alix faces are informed by her background and upbringing and drove me nuts. (Why does she say she "deserves" a car? If she wants a car so badly, why can't she be bothered to even research cars she thinks would be good herself?).
The parts at the beginning of the book in which Alix is still trying to figure out what happened to her girlfriend are interesting to read, after finding a new fling things get old. Thirty pages on it just gets cheesy and after that I just stopped caring, though I did finish it.
The preachy parts about coming out and The Gay Experience I could have done without, but I suppose in a different mindset I might have appreciated them.

42.

Lo, Malinda: Huntress.
Maybe it's because I listened to this as an audiobook, but I could never really get into the characters the way I did in "Ash". I enjoyed the world building and the plot as ever, and the style and words make this book definitely worth the read.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-06-30 11:08 pm

Books round-up: June

41.

Giles, Lamar: Fake ID.
I really love that there are more YA books around with lead characters who aren't all white, but this one still left things to be desired for me.
It was a bit difficult to see past the sexy-lamp-female characters whose main motivation is often looking good for the guys. The main character also has the issue that he's said to have certain traits and doesn't really show them, and the big reveal of the main twist also fell a bit flat.

40.

de la Pena, Matt: The Living
There none of the two female characters pass the sexy lamp test. Some of the things that happen are also a tad too convenient and the book reads as though it really wants to be an action movie. Still, I read it while wandering around in Munich, and it works. I am looking forward to the sequel, hoping that the female characters in the book will also get their chance to shine.
It's really refreshing to see a main character who is not white and whose background informs his character and many of his decisions without the entire story being about his race. He's also not the only PoC in the novel, there are a diverse cast.

39.

McKinley, Robin: Beauty.
I like McKinley's world, and her heroines. I did not like that "beauty" really must end up beautiful because there can't be any non-beautiful heroines anywhere ever. I also didn't like the invisible servants, or the continued proposing, even though that, of course, is there also in the original.

38.

McKinley, Robin: The Hero and the Crown.
I should have read this book when I was a lot younger, I would have really loved it. I love that the heroine has to work to get where she wants, and I was happy to revisit the world of The Blue Sword.

37.

Lo, Malinda: Ash.
What drew my interest was the beautiful cover and the heterocentric pearl-clutching I'd seen over this online over bisexual Cinderella. It's as though some people were shaken down to their fundamental because this wasn't the "Original" fairy tale. Given the fact that fairy tales are an oral tradition and versions tend to vary wildly this is a pretty strange outlook, and it got odder. Apparently even today Disney's Cinderella is many people's romantic dream. Well, good for them, they've got their billion-dollar-franchise, and now those whom Cinderella doesn't fit have this book.
I liked the beautiful style, the bisexual characters, that same-sex couples exist, that it has strong female characters and even occasionally people who communicate. I enjoyed what the author does with the fairy world, the dreaded love triangle, the fact that there are characters who take the initiative and have plans.
I didn't like the plot holes and moments in which characters went off the rails and acted in unexplained and plainly odd ways that didn't seem in keeping with traits established earlier.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-05-31 07:20 pm

Book round-up: May

36.

Charlton-Trujillo, E.E.: Fat Angie
I adore the voice of the main character Angie, as I shared some of her experiences, but I hated the way she is treated by other characters. Her romance with K. C. Romance seemed a bit over the top, but I liked that she finds love. The book tackles a lot of complex and dangerous issues - abuse, eating disorders, bullying, self-harm, depression, broken families, attempted suicide - and its always in danger of being too much, but it worked for me, and I think it'd probably work for teenagers and does show that people deal with pain in different ways.


35.

Donovan, Anne: Being Emily
I loved this book, though I find it hard to pinpoint why. We watch the heroine Fiona O'Donnell become obsessed with Emily Bronte and grow up until her world is all but shattered by the death of her mother in childbirth. Her father breaks down and turns to drinking, and she has to be the responsible adult in the family. We see her get back to her feet, find love, have her heart broken, and get back to herself as an artist. 
The narrator's beautiful rendition of the Weegie accent made me feel right at home and has a lot to do with why I loved this book.

34.

McKinley, Robin: The Blue Sword.
No huge love plot, no rape, racism, interesting world building. I love the characters in this book. They have motivations and limitations, they have thoughts and agendas and plots. The one thing that I'd have appreciated is a bit more detail on the fancy swordfighting the main character so effortlessly learns, I didn't quite buy that anyone would get so effortlessly good at something as intricate, but this is only a minor gripe.
What I loved especially is the complete absence of sexual violence and the fact that this fantasy book manages to get by without graphic sexual violence, you so rarely see that, and mostly without a love plot, though the main character is female.
What I'm no a big fan of is the colonialism and racism. I'm not sure why we need a saviour with a white background from the coloniser's country.

33.

Zeh, Julie: Corpus Delicti. Ein Prozess.
A very understated and quiet novel with believable main characters (though German authors might want to pick up a dictionary of names and browse anything but the letter "m") in a dystopian society based around hygiene and health, with a government which outlaws all health-threatening behaviours and has something like mandatory sports requirement, the skipping of which is punishable.
Our heroine Mia, a biologist working for the government and in full support of The Method, has to make up her mind about her position in the totalitarian system when her brother is killed for subverting the system and having someone pin the murder and rape of a young girl he was seing on him.

32.

Fforde, Jasper: The Well of Lost Plots
Quick, count on your fingers the number of pregnant heroines. I'm coming up with one, and she's a character in a novel by Terry Pratchett.

31.

Fforde, Jasper: Lost in a Good Book
I really love the Thursday Next series and this book was now exception. The book has it all: strong female characters, interesting plot twists, and excellent world building. It's funny and entertaining and I'm already on to the sequel.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-04-30 07:12 pm

Book round-up: April

30.

Westerfield, Scott: Cutters
I still enjoy reading about Shay, still don't enjoy the artworks unoriginality.

29.

Westerfield, Scott: Uglies: Shay's Story.
The story presented in this book is fine and interseting, and most of the problems I have with this novel are down to the art work.
I don't have very high expectations of the vast majority of people regarding female characters, even less so for the ones creating graphic novels (Why? Escher Girls). This book is in keeping with that. There aren't a lot of changes from "ugly" characters to surgically prettified characters, and while this is in keeping with the concept of "ugliness" introduced in that world, but I would have expected more diverse characters, and, since we're at it, truly ugly people. It can't be that difficult to draw ugly people, most artists seem to manage drawing ugly men just fine.

28.

Summers, A.K.: Pregnant Butch
Interesting read dealing with some of the thoughts that I have about pregnancy. I'm not presenting butch a lot, but that does not mean that I am dying to be lumped in with the pink soft femmy world that is expecting these days.

27.

Westerfield, Scott: Specials.
I would have really liked a happy ending for Tally and Shay, sad that that was not to be.

26.

Stoker, Bram: Dracula
A band of believable, different and likeable characters interacting in believable ways, using communication and Science(TM), Supernatural Powers as well as Cutting Edge Technology(TM) to achieve their aims in defeating a very complex, intelligent and interesting Big Bad. This is the grandfather of all vampire stories and I thought I would hate it. Then I read it for a Gothic Novel course at uni and fell in love. Not only with Action!Willhelmina or her host of weeping men, but also with the complexity and transgressiveness of Dracula.

25.

Westerfield, Scott: Pretties
The second part of Scott Westerfeld's dystopian unrealistic beauty standards series. A character from the first part becomes Turned into a pretty superhuman form of themselves and fight the anticipated and unanticipated effect this transformation have.
We encounter a trapped warlike tribal hunter-childminder/cook society with rigidly binary gender roles. In which part the book gets preachy in spite of the double standards shown within the world of the Pretties. In which there seems to be a whole lot of imbalance when it comes to the description of who does beautification surgeries, in descriptions of looks in general, in distribution of ugly main characters/love interests, etc.- which still points to the fact that if female and "ugly", you need to be at least called "beautiful" by your loved one while you can get away with being considered bootfaced by your loved one if you are an "ugly" male character in the novelverse (which can be explained away within the world, mostly, however).
Again the main conflicts are between female characters, but the degree to which they are about male love interests strikes me as overdone regardless of the fact that most of them are teenaged. Again a fun read, less interesting world building, and plotting, however. Our heroine is just a bit too lucky, all things considere

24.

Westerfield, Scott: Uglies.
The demands to conform with media-dictated unrealistic beauty standards taken to an extreme: This dystopian teen novel features female action heroine Tally Youngblood who lives in a society in which everybody undergoes drastic cosmetic surgery procedures at 16. They do this enhance their biological features and become a Pretty, the rite of initiation in a society in which pre-surgery Uglies count for nothi
The book passes both Sexy Lamp and the Bechdel test. It also has a slightly tacked-on love triangle and strange social dynamics. Refreshingly, the central conflicts in the books are all between female characters, while all the alliances sadly seem to be between the main character Tally and her love interests. The word building leaves things to be desired, but glosses over this fact due to being told from the limited POV of the main character. Still, an entertaining read.

23.

Fforde, Jasper: The Eyre Affair.
Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics, Wales is my favourite country, Fantasy is my favourite genre, it is a miracle to me that it took me so long to discover this book.
Humorous Fantasy is difficult because its often trying too hard and not particularly funny or crude, this one isn't, the main character is a very believable and female, there is a love plot, but its a mild one, it's got a world in which everybody is as invested in literature as people are in things like sports and movies today, and it reads like paradise (I don't think there's many places on our earth today in which you can strike up conversations with Inn receptionists about which of Chaucer's works they liked best).

22.

Fermer, David: The Pit.
The standards for original stories aimed at ESL students are extremely low, I'll give you that, and by that standard this book is excellent. It's well-paced, engaging, has very short chapters and a vocabulary section in the back. The language is simple, but still evocative. The characters could have done with more nuance, but they will likely still engage students.
Seen as a novel, however, I quickly became frustrated not only with the fact that it just barely passes the Sexy Lamp test and the status-quo-upholding ending that... doesn't really feel as though anything much has been accomplished. The characters don't develop, the dystopian world is still dystopian, and the rather heavy subjects that the book barely hints at are also not unpacked but sort of nonchalantly glossed over (eugenics, forced labour, race, classism, etc.)
I find it difficult to decide at this point if this is intentional to leave us teachers room to make up our own endings with our students or if this just fell prey to the common problem of the genre.

21.

Swindells, Robert: Abomination.
I read this book because I'm on the lookout for a book to read with my students and this seemed like a good choice. It has very good characters, an interesting story, though the ending left me a bit frustrated. It is very realistic and you cannot expect non-adult characters to make adult choices, but it still left me wanting things to be different for them.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-03-31 06:30 pm

Books - March

20.

Graves, Ranke: I, Claudius.
Ever since I borrowed this book from [livejournal.com profile] angie_21_237's family it's had a special place in my heart, and I reread it every couple of years. Though I am not overly fond of Claudius himself I enjoy reading about Livia, and our trip to Rome was motivated a lot by my interest in this extraordinary woman.

19.

Snicket, Lemony: When did you see her last?
I still find this series much less accessible than the A Series of Unfortunate Event. I also don't have as much patience for obtuseness because I am not reading this series all in one go as I did ASoUE, so I find it much harder to remember plot points from the last novel, and also am not invested in the characters enough yet to reread. The Beaudelaire orphans certainly kept my interest more.

18.

Fey, Tina: Bossypants
Funny and entertaining biography by the ever-talented Tina Fey.

17.

Davis, Lindsey:The Ides of April (Flavia Albia 1)
Ok crime story with ok twist, strong female characters and enjoyable romp through Rome. The one thing that I would have liked even more is to leave the Aventine behind this time and spend more time at other places. Still, the diverse host of characters (deaf people! mentally disabled people! black people! gay people! butch female people!) are enthralling, entertaining, and think this is worth a recommendation.

16.

Binnie, Imogen: Nevada.
There are hardly any book about trans women out there, and this is one of them. I find it hard to write about it because i wanted to like it so much and didn't like it as much as I expected. It left me feeling rather hopeless and sad for the main character, because her future has such a bleek outlook. I loved that it was, for once, not a coming out novel. Still, it has engaging and lifelike characters, even though they make me sad.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2014-02-28 05:00 pm

Book Round-up: February

15.


Rowling, J.K.: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Crocky and I are probably not the best fans considering how little we've actually been reading the books ever since the last movies came out. Sure, I've certainly flicked through them occasionally, but the last time the two of us read a book together was when DH came out. I love reading with her.


14.


Pratchett, Terry: Dodger
I really wanted to like this book. I don't. And ... I don't know what to say. I judge this author by much higher standards than any other, anyway, because his books meant and mean so much to me.They have a huge influence on how I see the world, their humanism and underlying optimism inherent especially in his late eighties and nineties books changed me and how I see people forever and made me a much happier person.
Sadly, somewhere around, oh, it may have been around Thud!, that seems to have gone lost forever and taken over more and more by the mandatory cynical grittiness that are apparently a mandatory hallmark to achieve depth these days. Dodger... I was scared of this book. There were many possibilities and pitfalls, and... it just doesn't work. The characters don't, the Dickensianism... also sort of doesn't, the historical figures didn't. Oh, and that love plot, too, but there aren't many love plots that I'd ever consider entirely necessary, so. Shame -there are many things that could have worked if he'd picked a different main character instead of writing Harry King's biography in Dickens' London.


13.


Davis, Lindsey: The Silver Pigs
Private Eyes in Vespasian's Rome, strong female characters, a walk through the underbelly of the Aventine, a fun read.


12.


Goldacre, Ben: Bad Science
Re-listening after finishing Bad Pharma.


11.


Galbraith, Robert: The Cuckoo's Calling
A very decent crime story by an not entirely unknown Scottish author who's shown before that they can do plots, and didn't disappoint here.
I liked the characters, I didn't like the moment when our sleuth tells the murderer what they'd done and they never actually confess or say much to agree or disagree with the sleuth's version. It seems strange that anybody would sit and listen at length to someone laying out what happened without any input from them, but this is a gripe I have with many crime novels with sleuths.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-12-31 09:37 pm

Book Challenge 2013

Book challenge 2013 round-up. I seriously hope that my editor will allow me to post this without empty lines.

50 books this year )

Half-assed statistics:
Male Authors: 28
Female Authors: 22
New books: 35
Old books: 15
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-06-01 01:31 pm

Book challenge

23.


Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
Con artist Moist von Lipwig is pardoned, in a way, by Lord Vetinari who asks him to run the Ankh-Morpork post, which may or may not turn out more dangerous than the hanging he just avoided.
I book would have been around 300% better if it had been about Adora instead of Moist, but it's still fun to watch him run around.


22.


The Truth, by Terry Pratchett.
Two dwarves and a human start an Ankh Morpork newspaper together.
I'm here mostly for the dwarves, not too big a fan of William de Worde, though it's an interesting attempt of showing someone overcoming privilege. Not entirely successful, but cookie points apply.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-05-20 02:48 am

Book: Scriber

21.

Ben S. Dobson, Scriber
A Fantasy story about medically trained historian Scriber Dennon Lark who is living in the country after destroying a priceless religious artefact and losing the trust of the Academy. When people under a zombie-like-influence attack several villages, Cpt. Bryndine Errynson fetches him to investigate the past of their kingdom and the origin of the strange influence.
I have not finished this book yet, but I'm in love. Bryndine is a miracle. She is a strong, masculine, tall, a trained soldier, gruff and vulnerable and amazing. Both characters are flawed and I can't remember when I've been as impressed by a character as I am by Bryndine, though presented with burly soldier girls whom the author doesn't instantly turn into someone wanting to bone the male lead I'm easy to please and quite excitable. And this book is not too expensive, the Kindle edition comes at under $4!
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-05-18 02:04 am

Book Challenge

Read a lot on the trip to Munich, two bus tours of over ten hours took care of that, and even without that I love listening to audio books while walking around the city during breaks.


20.

Terry Pratchett, Good Omens
Angel Aziraphale and Demon Crowley have been stationed on earth on opposite sides for so long that they've not only become quite fond of earth, but also become something like friends. When Crowley is asked to plant the Antichrist in a family to bring about Armageddon the two change plans to try and stop it. However, it soon turns out that the baby that they believed to be the Antichrist isn't. While they set out to find the real one, professional descendant Anathema Device prepares to stop Armageddon with the help of the prophecies of her ancestor witch Agnes Nutter. She is helped by modern Witchfinder Newton Pulsifer and soon discovers that she is closer than she first thought.
I've re-read this book at least once a year ever since I was sixteen years old, and whenever I feel down. I love the characters, and though I notice the problems (casual racism, classism, gender issues, slightly flat magic) it is one of my favourites for the characters and how the authors see humans.

19.

Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay
In the main plot, Samuel Vimes' life has become busy after his marriage to Lady Sybil Ramkin as well as his promotion elevated him to knighthood. The Assassins guild keep trying to kill him, people are killed gruesomely and there does not seem to be any trace of them left on the scene, and as though this is not enough, Lord Vetinari, benevolent tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, is poisoned.
One of the books that I keep re-reading when I feel down.

18.

Nella Larsen, Passing
Two black women, Clare and Irene are able to pass as white in twenties Chicago. While Irene does not rely on this in daily life and avoids confrontation with racism wherever possible Clare is married to a white racist who does not know that she is not white. Both women navigate their identities and personal happiness differently until the discovery of one has disastrous consequences.
I spotted this novel when I looked for books on passing and was surprised to find out it was so old, published in 1929. It's a fascinating insight, but also depressing.

17.

Donna Jo Napoli, Hush - An Irish Princess' Tale
Shortly before Melkorka's family is trying to avenge an offer of marriage by a Viking trader by her father she is captured by Slavish slavers together with her eight-years-old sister. Worried that anyone'll find out about their royal birth they keep silent to keep their secret.
The tale tells the story about how Melkorka became a slave and travelled to Iceland. I quickly grew fond of the characters, but it's a very depressing read. The first sexual assault of a thrall happens about 20% in, she starts having fond feelings for the rapist who purchased her at about 70%. Fuck that.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-05-11 10:06 pm

Book rec: Gossamer Axe

16.


Gael Baudino: Gossamer Axe
An Irish mortal-turned-immortal harpist-turned-guitarists forms a Heavy Metal band to rescue her lover from the realm of the Sidhe.
When I first heard the premise for this book I found it hard to take seriously. It sounded heard to pull off, to say the least. And yet, Gael Baudino somehow does it. Yes, the book becomes a bit preachy at times and silly at others, but it mostly works, and she always pulls it back so that it does. The main character is thoroughly enjoyable because she is competent, confident, and purposeful in what she does. The biggest hit with me was the author's music theory framework for her magic system, it's not often that you read about anyone using phrygian mode anymore.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-05-06 09:37 pm

Book challenge

15.


Mildred Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Mississippi in the thirties told from the POV of nine-years-old Cassie Logan. In many ways, Cassie is lucky, growing up on land owned by her family with her father working for the railroad to make ends meet and her mother as a school teacher, but that does not mean that they are unaffected by the Great Depression and the terrorist activities of those of her white neighbours who are members of the KKK.
Reading about racism through the eyes of nine-year old Cassie is both heartbreaking and scary at times because she often doesn't envision consequences of her or others' actions that older readers are doubtlessly aware off. It works well and makes this book really scary at times. The characters are all fleshed-out and lovely, and the language Taylor really brings them to life for me. I really enjoyed this book.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Moth)
2013-04-19 07:16 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

14.


Kevin Werbach,For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business
What gamification is and how you can use it in businesses primarily, though other applications are also explored.
I'm hoping to learn more about how to apply these techniques to the classroom to make learning more fun. I already noticed that whenever little quizzes are included in exams students are wild about them and are really motivated not only to find out the right solution, but also really eager to get started on it - they rarely have this reaction to regular exams. I've included different ones in all of the simple tests I give them and so far, it's been working great.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-04-19 06:50 pm

Kissing book

13.

Kerstin Gier, Smaragdgr├╝n- Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten 3
The plot thickens after the cliffhanger-ending of the second instalment: is it possible that Prince Charming double-crossed the main lady and only faked being in love with her to be able to do so?
Of course not. This is teen Fantasy romance. The ending to the series is as well-written as the other two parts, but the plot bellyflops severely several times. I suppose you have to care most about the romance plot to like it, and I don't. It was still fun to read, though.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-04-08 09:26 pm

Book challenge

12.

Kerstin Gier, Saphirblau - Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten 2
Crocky and I are still entranced by the idiomatic German style of this author. It's basically Dan Brown for romance-novel-liking girls, and it does this well. Very light reading, but fun, and it's interesting to see what my students are reading.
mothwing: Image of a death head hawk moth (Book)
2013-04-06 02:22 pm

Book challenge

11.

Kerstin Gier,Rubinrot - Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten
A story about a 16-year-old girl who has a rare time-travelling gene that runs in her family and causes her to randomly jump through time. Her family is protected and guided by a secretive masonic lodge who have found a way to control her time-travelling, but she soon finds out that they have sinister ulterior motives.
Since it looks like an extremely superfluous love story I was pleasantly surprised by the movie and the book  especially. It is a love story aimed at teens and filled with the expected angst and awkwardness, but the main characters are somewhat more developed than I'd have believed and seem to have character traits beyond a hair colour and klutziness/hunkiness, which is a plus.