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 Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: happy
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
30 April 2014 @ 07:12 pm
Book round-up: April  

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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).


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.


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
31 December 2013 @ 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
20 May 2013 @ 02:48 am
Book: Scriber  

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!
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: hopeful
Current Music: Guided by Voices: Queen of Cans and Jars
18 May 2013 @ 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
Current Mood: amused
08 April 2013 @ 09:26 pm
Book challenge  

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.
Current Mood: blah
06 April 2013 @ 02:22 pm
Book challenge  

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.
Current Mood: okay
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 Mood: tired
Current Location: Bremen
Current Music: Haydn's Creation Nr. 12 (or 13? Who knows).
17 February 2013 @ 01:46 am
Wolfy stories  
Periodically, I browse the internet in search for werewolf books. Most of what I find reads like a PSA for why it's a great idea to stay with an abusive partner ("Not his fault that he turns into a werewolf, it's the curse! He's not himself! It's just his violent nature that wants out!") or porn (really lulzy porn).

Female werewolves are far and few between, and they're often either porn stars, or sidekicks to male werewolf love interests (hi Leah), or exotic monsters for male heroes to sleep with (I suppose even Angua, my favourite female werewolf, falls into this category).

There are exceptions, of course, but the last werewolf stories I read - Patricia S. Briggs novels and Gill McNight's lesbian werewolf oeuvre - have left me rather underwhelmed. So I went looking and added these to my books-to-search-at-the-library-pile:

  • Helen Kate (aka She-Wolf)'s Wolf-Girls. An anthology exploring a variety of female werewolf stories. I don't like short stories, but this one has been on my list for a while. This I won't find at the library, but it's available as a not too expensive ebook, though I don't use my slow ebook reader unless forced to.

  • Carrie Vaughn's Kitty series. I'm trepidatious about this series mostly because of their covers, but the main character appears to be a female werewolf, so why not.

  • Naomi Clark's Silver Kiss. This one has lesbian werewolves in a world in which werewolves and humans know about each other.

  • Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl. It has an eccentric self-harming teenager as the main character. Why not.

  • Allison Moon's Lunatic Fringe about a College group of feminist werewolves sounds a bit choppy, but both FeministFantasy and She-Wolf were ok with it, so why not give it a whirl.

I am also reminded to put Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo on my to-buy-list. And possibly The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer.

I'm grateful for any wolfy recs that you have! 
Current Music: Howl - Florence + the Machine
Current Location: Bremen
Current Mood: sleepy
29 December 2011 @ 06:51 pm
Book Challenge 2011 Masterlist  
I have to try keeping closer tabs on my list. Most of the books I read during the first half of the year are on my Oyo - which died in November, which makes it harder to piece together what I've been reading. Though since the books I read and forget probably shouldn't count, anyway, this list works just as well. The bold titles are my top seven of this year's books. 

Complete list and top 7 (bold) )
    Half-assed statistics: 
    Female authors 143021
    Male authors 363629
    Re-read books 180911
    New books 325439
    Current Mood: dorky
    Current Location: Home
    Current Music: Maurice (1987)
    27 December 2011 @ 04:42 pm
    Bookchallenge round-up  
    I can't seem to get the hang of keeping track of these challenges. Since my last entry was once again in May I can't remember what I read this year, especially the ones that I borrowed from the school library, but these are the ones that I could either remember or could piece together from my Amazon account. HTML

    I left out re-reads if I read them more than once this year and some books by Terry Pratchett, and as always everything I read for school. 

    25-52 )
    04 February 2011 @ 02:13 pm
    2011 Book challenge II  

    Myth Directions, by Robert Asprin.
    Tanda wants to go shopping for a birthday present for Aahz and decides that the incredibly ugly civil-war-preventing war game trophy on the odd planet of Jahk is the best choice. Needless to say stealing this piece is not as easy as it sounds and they soon find themselves in the midst of the war game preventing said civil war. 
    Another for the train-book pile. Ok read, not terribly great in terms of consistent characterisation, and dear god, the fatphobia and misogyny. Still funny enough to get through, and every Fantasy book that manages to get around an epic battle in the end deserves a cookie.


    Myth-conceptions, by Robert Asprin.
    Court magician sounds like a cushy job and Aahz forces Skeeve to try out for the job, which he promptly gets. Little do either of them know that an army is heading their way and they're the kingdom's first line of defence.
    I have serious trouble with the unlikely character development of the main character, but I do like that this does not have an epic final battle and I thoroughly enjoyed reading how they find a way around fighting. Well done.

    Another Fine Myth, by Robert Asprin.
    Magical apprentice and wannabe thief Skeeve is impressed when his master summons a demon, the more so when said master is killed and the demon introduces himself as Aahz, dimension traveller and his master's co-worker. Together they travel through various dimension to find his master's murderer.
    Very funny, though it's clear that this series comes from the late seventies. I can't stand how Tanda and other female characters are treated, but that was only to be expected.


    The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, by Douglas Adams.
    A story about  holistic detective Dirk Gently, norse gods, and man-eating fridges.
    Humorous, but dear god, eighties gender-based humour is really not my thing. Also remind me why that poor cleaning lady is working for this person, again. 


    America - The Book, by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin and David Javerbaum.
    Another humorous history, this time of America. Very entertaining and critical account of American history.


    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle.
    How did I miss this? It has an unattractive female character! Who gets into fights! And wears braces! And glasses! And who is not an academic overachiever, either! Awesome. It reads a bit like a mix of The Demon Headmaster, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.


    The Name of the Wind, by Patrock Rothfuss.
    First instalment in the Kingkiller chronicles though we don't know which king that was yet. The account of the young life of Kvothe, trouper, street urchin, student, arcanist and subsequent inkeeper as narrated by himself.
    I re-read this again and am re-reading it with Crocky, only counting it once. In spite of its gloominess I very much enjoy the read and still love the language of the author. The audiobook is terrible, however.

    Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett.
    The Auditors of Reality decide that Death has developed too much of a personality and send him to retire, during his absence life force builds up and as he comes to term with his newly acquired life, so do other things because death effectively stops.
    I hadn't read this one in a while and I must say that once more, I rather enjoy reading my electronic reading experience on the Oyo, though it doesn't beat real books. 


    How to Speak Dragonese, by Cressida Cowell.
    During another pirate training lesson Hiccup, fishlegs and Bog Burgler heir Camicazi are abducted by the Romans
    Obviously I'm a big fan of Camicazi and I couldn't wait to read this with Crocky.


    How to be a Pirate, by Cressida Cowell.
    During pirate training lesson Hiccup encounters Alvin the Poor but Honest Farmer who is anything but and successfully resists the temptation that a great big treasure offers.
    Re-reading the series with Crocky and I remember why I love it so much.

    An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, by John O'Farrel
    Very entertaining history of Britain that still informs, much like the Horrible Histories. Can't wait to somehow use this in class.
    Valor's Trial, by Tanya Huff.
    GySgt Torin Kerr fights her way out of an underground POW camp and has to cooperate with the enemy to do so.
    I've come to rather enjoy this series, it makes good train reading, even though I still shake my head at her Star Trek idea of what's universal and continue to be disappointed at the lack in progress in robotics this future has (why do living soldiers have to go everywhere? Why don't they ever send recon drones or whatever?). What's also fun: look at the cover of this book, how long d'you think her hair is? She's supposed to have a crew cut in the books, but GOD FORBID anyone female has short hair on book covers, though I suppose that for whoever drew this this is what "short" hair would look like on a woman.
    Current Mood: busy
    09 January 2011 @ 01:08 pm
    2010 Books I  
    The Heart of Valor, by Tanya Huff.
    After her encounter with the alien in the previous instalment curious readers are now left with the following clues: (1) there is an alien space ship which could read minds and create places taken from the content of their heads (2) the escape pod created by the ship with which they escaped in the last novel has gone AWOL (3) the Major whom Torrin is supposed to babysit right now mysteriously has a acquired a new arm made from an unknown matter (4) no one can remember the escape pod from the mysterious alien vessel, as though their minds have been wiped (5) the training programme on the planet on which they're on is starting to act ~strange~, as though someone had reprogrammed it.
    Even though it takes a bit long for the main characters to figure out the plot, this was still entertaining enough to get through. Challenge-wise, I'm counting the love story between Torrin and her civilian, so it doesn't beat it.
    The Better Part of Valor, by Tanya Huff.
    Sgt. Torin Kerr and a crew of diplomats and other civilians encounter a big yellow alien space ship which is not as harmless as it seems and are soon in the midst of danger.
    Her plots are a tad forseeable, but I'm entertained and I appreciate the main character, she's fun to read. I'm not overly impressed with the world building or the violence, but didn't really expect much, either.
    23 December 2010 @ 07:46 pm
    Are You A Kissing Book? Part II  
    It seems that the best chance of finding books about women without love plots is when searching among YA novels and historical novels involving royal, crossdressing characters hell-bent on learning how to fight, as long as they can keep their hands off servants and mentors, that is. Not entirely surprising, but sad.

    The books below, judging by summaries and reviews, have good chances of not containing love plots.
    • Dorothy Canfield Fisher's Understood Betsy - orphan Elizabeth Ann leaves her sheltered city life for a life on her aunt's farm and its various chores, which she rapidly grows to love too much to leave again.
    • Allan Frewin Jones' Warrior Princess series: Branwen, aided by faithful former slave Rhodri, becomes a warrior princess and defends her home and hearth against the Saxons. I'm foreseeing Branwen/Rhodri, but who knows.
    • Astrid Lindgren's Ronja the Robber's Daughter - in spite of her family history, Ronja does not want to become a robber, neither does Birk, the son of her clan's closest enemy. They flee and their families have to work together to find their children.
    • Donna Jo Napoli: Hush. Irish Princess Melkorka and her sister Brigid are sent away for safekeeping when a plot on her family is threatening her life and are captured by Russian slavers instead. They try to keep their royal birth secret by not speaking. Upside: no love plot, downside: gangrape.
    • Rebecca Tingle's version of teen Æthelflæd, The Edge of the Sword. King Alfred's teenaged daughter Æthelflæd is not happy with the prospect of having to marry an older ally of her father, even unhappier with her bodyguard, but learns how to fight and protect those close to her gladly, which soon becomes necessary.
    • Theresa Tomlinson's Wolf Girl. Wulfrun's mother is accused of stealing a neclace and Wulfrun sets out to prove her innocene.
    Other loveplot-less books:
    • Michael Ende's Momo- Orphan Momo live s in a ruined amphitheatre. When everyone she loves start falling prey to the Men in Grey and their timesaving bank, she steals their life time back. German classic really eveybody should read.
    • Annika Thor's Sanning eller Konsekvens (Ich hätte nein sagen können)  -Nora doesn't like the way her class, especially rich Fanny, are mobbing big-chested Karen, but finds out to what lengths even she herself will go to get her best friend Sabina back, who is best friends with Fanny these days.
    Current Mood: chipper
    21 December 2010 @ 11:10 pm
    ♥ Recs ♥  
    In my quest to find loveplotless books about strong heroines an anon, [ profile] therealsnape and [ profile] holyschist came to my aid with these recs: 
    • Anne McCaffrey: Dinosaur Planet series (which, according to the Amazon review section seems to be about a male and a female character who do have some sort of romance plot, though, so I'm not sure I found the right book here), Freedom series (I seem to recall that the main point was the love plot between the male and the female lead in some kind of female slave scenario, but it's too long ago since the friend who read the series told me about this one, so I might be mistaken), and the Harper Hall trilogy (the first of which sounds delightful - a musician and dragons! It seems that only the first two of this trilogy are meant to be for the challenge, though, since the third one is about a male character). 
    • Katherine Kurtz: The Legends of the Camber of Culdi (Camber being an Earl make this rec somewhat of a puzzler for me, though the Deryni series does sound interesting, being "set in a land analogous to medieval Wales" with magic - though maybe Anon meant a specific volume, like In the King's Service, for example, which appears to be about an Alyce); Legacy of Lehr which I think I remember seeing at some point during my my cat phase. 
    • Marion Zimmer Bradley: Darkover novels centered around the Renunciates, basically  -the Renunciates being a group of matriarchic Amazons who revolted against the norms of their feudal society. Not being familiar with the Darkover series I'm not sure I could understand later instalments without prior knowledge, though. I'll try to get hold of the books from one of the MZB completist I know. Anyway, the recs: Hawkmistress!, The Shattered Chain, it's sequels Thendara House and City of Sorcery.
    • Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword - coming-of-age story about Katherine becoming a swordsmistress and coming to terms with the intrigues and plots at her uncle's court.
    • ? Tanya Huff's Valor books - military space opera on an infantry division from a staff sergeant's PoV. - Valor's Choice does have the heroine falling in lust with her Lt. at the very beginning of the book in a scene reminiscent of the Grey's Anatomy pilot and keeps having romantic thoughts about the superior under her care throughout the book, so I don't think this qualifies.
    • Karen Cushman's medieval YA  (like Midwife's Apprentice - Alys, née Beetle is apprenticed to a midwife )
    • Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix - Ai Ling goes on a quest to free her father and find her destiny after discovering she is telepathic.
    • Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan - alternate history version of WWI - fleeing prince Aleksander's and dressed-as-a-boy airman Deryn Sharpe's paths cross and they experience the outbreak of WWI. Not solely about a female character, but the book alternates between their views. 
    • Marie Rutkowski's Cabinet of Wonders - Petra Kronos goes on a quest to Prague to get her father's stolen eyes back.
    Current Mood: excited
    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
    25 September 2010 @ 12:56 pm
    Join The Challenge.  
    Crocky and I like reading books together, and we are always on the lookout for books likely to make the Bechdel-Wallace-test, but lately, especially when it comes to Fantasy, even those that make it leave me dissatisfied. It's not only that there are hardly any books with and about strong female main characters, it's that as long as the female characters are older than eleven, they usually MUST. FALL. IN LOVE.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I love love. I love being in love. I do not, however, enjoy reading about people finding love and engaging in activities related to courtship. Which is what seems to be the only thing going on in most love plots. And there really does not need to be a love plot in every single book. They rarely ever add anything to the plot and they rarely ever influence characters in a realistic way, and tend to be as exciting to read and varied as people making sandwiches. They tend to be tacked on, without point or purpose, just because it apparently is a part integral to the experience of being a woman to fall for a man - any man - because lesbians don't exist, and god forbid female characters get a plot without throwing a male love interest into the mix somewhere, because there might be riots in the streets and people will protest in front of publisher's houses with torches and pitchforks.

    Because Crocky has similar inclinations, we started searching. And searching. And searching. Thus, the challenge came about.
    It does not sound like much, but try it, and you'll see what I mean.

     [ profile] niaseath joined it, spent an hour in a book shop and couldn't find one single book that made it. I must be reading the wrong Fantasy books, because without the odd Discworld novel and the Worst Witch series, which is for young children, and a couple of books by MZB, I've drawn a blank. There are slightly more titles that come to mind outside the genre, but it's only a tiny fraction, and that's usually because the main character is considered to be past datable age or too young.

    Granted, there are also few books about men without a love plot in them, but how many can you think of that do exist?
    That's more than none, right?
    25 September 2010 @ 10:45 am
    Non-kissing books  
    Back-dated list of books about female characters without love plots (which, again, as this seems to be fairly confusing for people, doesn't mean that all other books are bad, just that these books are rare, what with love plots generally being shoe-horned into everything about female characters that aren't either pre-pubescent or menopausal).
    • Agatha Christie's Mrs Marple novels - at least I don't remember any love plots, though it's been a while since I read these novels on my favourite spinster detective. If this is true, then probably also Anne Hart's The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple, a compilation of information about this character compiled from Christie's novels.
    • Michael Ende's Momo- Orphan Momo live s in a ruined amphitheatre. When everyone she loves start falling prey to the Men in Grey and their timesaving bank, she steals their life time back. German classic really eveybody should read.
    • Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch series,. A beloved series of children's book about the many adventures of Mildred Hubble, who is the worst witch at her school.
    • Annika Thor's Sanning eller Konsekvens (Ich hätte nein sagen können)  -Nora doesn't like the way her class, especially rich Fanny, are mobbing big-chested Karen, but finds out to what lengths even she herself will go to get her best friend Sabina back, who is best friends with Fanny these days.
    Current Mood: cheerful
    14 September 2010 @ 07:46 pm
    Reality check  
    The following are the categories in the children's section of the nearest Hannover city library (and I quote): 

    - Fantasy
    - Action
    - Crime
    - Reality
    - Romance.

    Yeah. I don't know. Fantasy and action, sure, but reality?? Really? (That's where they put the books on WWII, drugs, child pregnancy and life in the GDR. Reality is depressing in Germany. Romance is a redundant category, because every book I looked at in the other categories had a pretty prominent romance plot, yuck. Kissing books, man).

    Am I happy about that because it means no one will have to go through the trouble of teaching the kids these words at school, or am I worried for the future of my mother tongue?
    Current Mood: annoyed