Mothwing
07 November 2014 @ 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... )
 
 
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: okay
 
 
Mothwing
31 October 2014 @ 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.
 
 
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: happy
 
 
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
26 November 2010 @ 10:21 pm
Book challenge  
I did not write entries for the books I read this year, so this'll have to be from memory and it'll be very incomplete.

59 books I can remember reading this year )

It's become pretty obvious that I don't have as many long train rides anymore as I used to.

Next on the reading list: 

- Boy2Girl  by Terence Blacker- a story of a boy who cross-dresses as a prank. Sounds horrid and is on the reading list for our 6th graders.
- Ich hätte Nein sagen können by Annika Thor - a book about mobbing, also on the reading list for our 6th graders.
- Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller,
- Ambereye, by Gill McNight. Here's hoping my fears about the quality lesbian werewolf fiction are unfounded.
- Wit'ch Star by James Clemens. Found this at a sale at the local library. Not sure about this because it's the sixths part of a six-part-series and I only have this one, but might be worth dipping into.
- Die vollkommene Ehe - Eine Studie über ihre Physiologie und Technik by Hendrik van de Velde. Surprisingly open German sex ed from the 1920ies.
- The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer if I ever have the patience.
- Middlemarch, by George Eliot. This'll be the third time I start that novel.
 
 
Current Mood: calm