31 October 2014 @ 08:02 pm
Books round-up: October  

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.


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... )


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.


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


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.


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.


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... )


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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... )


Pratchett, Terry: Dragons at Crumbling Castle.
Adorable short stories presented in a way that I can see children liking as much as adult fans.
Current Mood: happy
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
30 September 2014 @ 12:14 am
Books round-up: September  

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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?


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.


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.


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... )


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... )


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.


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... )


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
31 August 2014 @ 11:30 pm
Books round-up: August  

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.


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.


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


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... )


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.


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... )
20 February 2013 @ 09:37 pm
Dresden File #1 - in which lovable chauvinists aren't.  
I like my escapist fantasy literature frustration-free and therefore can't enjoy fastfood literature anymore. )
Current Music: Haydn's Creation Nr. 12 (or 13? Who knows).
Current Location: Bremen
Current Mood: tired
11 July 2010 @ 03:50 am
... the hell is this?  
It's hot. I am bored. I'm unemployed. I have nothing else to do. Still. What the hell is this? Someone posted this on [ profile] theaudiolibrary  and in spite of better knowledge, I gave it a try. I'd like to believe that this is ironic, but I can't, because this is so close to similar nice-guy narratives. It'd make a good litmus test for feminist allies, though.

It's about a whiny-ass sleep-deprived misogynistic white ~nerdy~ socially inept bully victim finding his muse in a dark and ~edgy white gawth ("post-goth") girl. I don't even know where to start. I'm guessing it's supposed to be "ironic" in that hipster sense that makes me wonder if people are using the same kind of dictionary.

This hero's misogyny and racism is incredible, as is the female characters flatness and her tendency to try and be "one of the guys", and in spite of the hyperbolic tendencies I can't bring myself to believe that this is not an author writing from his own personal and completely unironic experience.

I especially enjoyed the main character's whining about being treated badly when he's walking around thinking of female bodies as decoration, and the casual ass-pats he gets from his Goth-muse for staring at women like pieces of meat, because it's "fine for him" to do that. Because he's still young. Also, it's important to note that his chest-baring muse chooses not to "flaunt" her breasts. Unlike those hussies, you know? She still shows him her boobs, because that's just what girls do instead of explaining about minimizers. With, you know, words.

Oh, or the hero being upset with his one friend and bringing up the fact that he is one of the few white guys who know why black history month exists! So how dare he be upset with the white hero!

Or the countless occasions when the storyline is twisted away from NG's obvious shortcomings in the  human decency department at the moment where he's almost about to get called out on them, and get re-rendered as a pity party for the hero or morphed into a wish-fulfillment sequence. Like the scene in which the "nerd guy", when the "goth girl" calls him out on his obvious sexism, calls her out on her failed, attention-seeking suicide attempt. That'll show her. Or when the girl he lusts after without knowing anything about her just because she is beautiful tells her about how girls sometimes can be shallow, especially if they turn him down. And then makes out with him. Because's he's just that special.

He does seem to realise he's just as bad as the other guys, but the realisation is a mere blip of cognitive activity in a sea of self-centred ignorance, and while I wish readers are supposed to see that and point and laugh, I am not convinced. This appears to be a character honestly trying, and I am not sure whether this is book is someone cleverly telling the story of a privileged-as-fuck male teenager trying and failing to improve, or a failed attempt at writing a story about a quirky, yet relatable and most of all redeemable hero.

While it is possible to read this as the story of an inept narrator with an incredibly ironic focalizer I find it hard, and that still does not mean this book is worth the paper it is printed on, because it is not less annoying than similar and completely unironic accounts. It is so over the top that I wish I could be certain it was meant to be a mental kick in the rear for the target audience, but since I find it hard to believe that an audience who'd find this character relatable or interesting would even be able to see the irony I have my doubts about that working out. Maybe I'm underestimating people, but this book is still a waste of space unless you always desperately wanted to see the subtle workings of a privileged whiny white guys' mind and needed this book to come along to tell you about that, because you hadn't encountered any other sources on that so far.

For me, it's white noise and whining. It's whining about comic books, whining about not getting girls, whining about having a step father NG doesn't approve of, whining about having an unborn sibling, whining about not getting to go to a convention, and curiously enough, the fictional world always bending to his whiny will, which is annoying as hell, as by the middle you, or at least I started hoping for him to finally get a comeuppance. Even though this character clearly is in need of some serious therapeutic help.

In this as in the comic books/graphic novels the hero enshrines, I really, really don't manage to see the appeal.
27 November 2008 @ 10:18 am
50 book challenge: 47-53  

I just realised that I haven't updated this thing since August. I can't remember half the things I read since then, so this is more an informed guess than a correct account of what I've been reading since then. I can definitely remember reading four books, the first four listed here. I can't really get them in any sort of order, though.


Maskerade, Terry Pratchett.
It's an old favourite solely because of Agnes. I am not that fond of the story, but I love Agnes. She is one of the most realistic characters he has ever written, and much of the things which happen to her from the "but she has a wonderful personality" to the fact that she would never be the one to be looked after after a fainting fit but always the one to fetch cold water is incredibly spot on. Crocky and I are reading it together, and it seems that with his observances about opera in particular and the performing arts in general, Terry Pratchett is incredibly and unsurprisingly spot on.


Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris. 
I love reading his books. Even though I'm usually not a fan of books comprising of anecdotal writing, but he is so funny that it works well. I usually end up reading them out to Crocky because I want to share the funnier bits. Especially his exploits as a language student are incredibly entertaining and reminded me a lot of my own experiences as a language student abroad.


Nation, Terry Pratchett.
Interview with Terry Pratchett on the book.
I usually buy P'Terry's books as soon as they come out, but with this one, I felt slightly sceptical that it would live up to my expectations, which it did, of course. The way the characters deal with the trauma of having lost everything they have known, the way they struggle to find their new position in life as their reality is toppled upside down and everything they have come to take for granted is called into question after the tidal wave which brought them together is much more interesting to read than other, similar "stranded on a desert island" books. What made this book for me are the asides on cultural relativism, cultural equality and the history of science, though. I've always have been a big fan of those.


Monstrous Regiments, Terry Pratchett.
I did not really like this book when I read it first because I did not really like the ending too much although it is realistic as it does capture the complicated nature of situations like these for which there is no simple solution, especially none that help from the outside can provide. I get that. I still felt very uncomfortable with peace-loving Terry Pratchett writing about wars and soldiers.
Still, it is a good book. I do like the characters, his take on gender, patriotism, faith and fanatism.


Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox, Eoin Colfer.
Wow. I love his books, but this one was really, really less good than I thought it should be. Not only does he exploit the "sick mother" trope ad nauseam, he also uses it and the "dead mother" as a reason to justify all sorts of really unlogical actions and decisions. As much as I love his characters, what he does to them in this book is not really in character for any of them. Yes, it is fun, seeing the old Artemis again, and it is fun reading the interaction of Holly and Artemis, but the plot is forced, the decisions the characters make are not explained or motivated sufficiently, and the characterisation is stretched too much to be comfortable. They practically creak in some scenes.
Also, Colfer can't write little children, much less gifted little children, to save his life. Yes, it is really hard, but it's not as though it isn't possible to do some research or watch a bleeding documentary on gifted children online, at least.
As for what is probably one of the most frequently discussed scene - the Holly/Artemis moment - as squee-worthy as it was, it made me feel very uncomfortable. I don't like the way Holly is changing. Holly is one of my favourite female characters, and the way this character is undermined by the strereotypes she gets saddled with more and more is making me uncomfortable. Holly, the kick-ass-eager-to-prove-herself-Holly from the first book would not likely tear up and go on rescue missions because of her dead mother. She also would not kiss Artemis. Yes, their interaction changed them, but I doubt that it would have changed her this much.


Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
I had expected more, somehow. I do like this book, especially the characterisation of the married couple in the first couple of chapter, but the way he describes Paul Morel's characters' sexual exploits somehow did not really work for me. The importance placed on sex in the novel and the extra dimensions it receives somehow annoy me. I like my sex, and I like it a lot, but it is just that, sex, not something offering a deeper insight into the mystical nature of anything, or a spiritual union.


Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer
Goodness. This is one of the worst books I have ever read, and I have read a few really bad books. It is so bad that it might as well be a parody. It is bad even in terms of the expectations raised by the first three books, which were stylistically not that good. It is really, really awful and reads like bad fanfiction.

Current Mood: cheerful