Mothwing
30 September 2014 @ 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... )
 
 
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
 
 
Mothwing
31 May 2014 @ 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
30 April 2014 @ 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.
 
 
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: okay
 
 
Mothwing
31 March 2014 @ 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.