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 Mood: okay
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
 
 
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 Mood: happy
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
 
 
Mothwing
30 September 2014 @ 12:14 am
Books round-up: September  
66.

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

65.

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

64.

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

63.

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

62.

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

61.

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

60.

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

59.

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

58.

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

57.

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

56.

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

55.

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

54.

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

53.

Wales: A Nation in Verse.
To start of with something positive: this collection of poems has the always pleasing Welsh dragon on its cover.
Read more... )
 
 
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
 
 
Mothwing
31 July 2014 @ 11:25 pm
Books round-up: July  
46.

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

45.

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

44.

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

43.

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

42.

Lo, Malinda: Huntress.
Maybe it's because I listened to this as an audiobook, but I could never really get into the characters the way I did in "Ash". I enjoyed the world building and the plot as ever, and the style and words make this book definitely worth the read.
 
 
Mothwing
30 June 2014 @ 11:08 pm
Books round-up: June  
41.

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

40.

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

39.

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

38.

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

37.

Lo, Malinda: Ash.
What drew my interest was the beautiful cover and the heterocentric pearl-clutching I'd seen over this online over bisexual Cinderella. It's as though some people were shaken down to their fundamental because this wasn't the "Original" fairy tale. Given the fact that fairy tales are an oral tradition and versions tend to vary wildly this is a pretty strange outlook, and it got odder. Apparently even today Disney's Cinderella is many people's romantic dream. Well, good for them, they've got their billion-dollar-franchise, and now those whom Cinderella doesn't fit have this book.
I liked the beautiful style, the bisexual characters, that same-sex couples exist, that it has strong female characters and even occasionally people who communicate. I enjoyed what the author does with the fairy world, the dreaded love triangle, the fact that there are characters who take the initiative and have plans.
I didn't like the plot holes and moments in which characters went off the rails and acted in unexplained and plainly odd ways that didn't seem in keeping with traits established earlier.
 
 
Mothwing
31 March 2014 @ 06:30 pm
Books - March  
20.

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

19.

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

18.

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

17.

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

16.

Binnie, Imogen: Nevada.
There are hardly any book about trans women out there, and this is one of them. I find it hard to write about it because i wanted to like it so much and didn't like it as much as I expected. It left me feeling rather hopeless and sad for the main character, because her future has such a bleek outlook. I loved that it was, for once, not a coming out novel. Still, it has engaging and lifelike characters, even though they make me sad.
 
 
Mothwing
11 May 2013 @ 10:06 pm
Book rec: Gossamer Axe  
16.


Gael Baudino: Gossamer Axe
An Irish mortal-turned-immortal harpist-turned-guitarists forms a Heavy Metal band to rescue her lover from the realm of the Sidhe.
When I first heard the premise for this book I found it hard to take seriously. It sounded heard to pull off, to say the least. And yet, Gael Baudino somehow does it. Yes, the book becomes a bit preachy at times and silly at others, but it mostly works, and she always pulls it back so that it does. The main character is thoroughly enjoyable because she is competent, confident, and purposeful in what she does. The biggest hit with me was the author's music theory framework for her magic system, it's not often that you read about anyone using phrygian mode anymore.
 
 
Current Mood: surprised
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Music: Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Black Star
 
 
 
Mothwing
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 )
 
 
Mothwing
12 April 2011 @ 12:34 am
Bookchallenge  
23.
Nichts: Was im Leben wichtig ist, by Janne Teller. (Nothing)
When Pierre decides that nothing in life is worth living for, his classmates want to convince him otherwise and start collecting things that mean something to them. What starts innocently with favourite comic books quickly spirals out of control as people are required to give up more and more important things until it ends in excavating bodies, cutting off fingers and, inevitably, rape. Of course. But it's still a very good book and captivating.

22.
Unter Verdacht, by Joyce Carol Oates (Big Mouth and Ugly Girl).
When a joke goes wrong Matt is suspected of having planned to blow up the school. The only one who does not believe that is Ursula, sports star and outsider no one likes. Haven't finished this one yet.

21.
Die Lebensfahrt auf dem Meer der Welt - der Topos, by Christoph Hönig.
A book on the topos of life as a sea voyage and the world as that sea, something of a guided tour through different periods with different texts and analyses of what they make of this topos, how they use it and how it changes over the years. Ever since I read Crossing the Bar and listened to a lecture on it by Professor Haas, who was one of the best speakers I have ever heard I've had a soft spot for this topos and enjoyed encountering it elsewhere subsequently (like in Gregorius).
20.
My Gender Workbook, by Kate Bornstein.
Very practical, hands-on introduction to gender, workbook-style.
Haven't finished this one yet but had a good time with the articles and the way they're written as well as the questionnaires. The interludes do feel gratuitous at times, but they don't bother me, it's still very informative.

19.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Holds what the title promises: a guide on how to win friends and influence people, or rather,  how to modify your interpersonal skills so as to facilitate that.
Ever since I saw the thread in the Slytherin forum on CS back in the day I've been wanting to read this book. I bought it now that covering communication with my students is imminent and it's enjoyable to read.

18.
The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss.
This one deserves a bigger review. I did have a good time reading it, but the longwinded pointlessness of vast part of the middle (Felurian. Oh god did that ever end), some flaws in the setting (would Bast really have sat there for six hours and listen to Kvothe talk about the fairy realm without comment? Hard to imagine) and the increasing level of NiceGuyness of the main character made this hard to enjoy - regardless of just how much I looked forward to this. I liked how the world opens up and still love the magic system, though I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable at the moral framework of our hero (slaying old ladies begging for their lives is not ok even if you think that they were conspiring with rapists, especially if it's likely that they were forced to play along themselves, asshole). The amount of times in which the Rule of Cool is used to make something work also baffles me. All in all enjoyable, but there are things that are off.

17.
The Lucifer Effect - How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip Zimbardo.
This one centres pretty heavily on the Stanford Prison Experiment. Again not news, but the conclusion he draws and what he extrapolates about similar scenes from Guantanamo is still worth a read.

16.
Das Milgram-Experiment, by Stanley Milgram.
An account of the experiment. A classic. I've read it before, and I keep being amazed and terrified at the results.
15.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney.
Greg's adventures as a small boy in Middle School. A typical story about a non-stereotypically male hero type whose sidekick inevitably has to be even less stereotypically masculine to affirm them, or something. I can't really say I am care that greatly, but I watched Wonder Years enough in my teens to recognise the narrative enough to sympathise. My students love this book so I gave it a read.
 
 
Current Mood: tired
 
 
Mothwing
27 November 2010 @ 05:42 pm
Razor in candyfloss  
When his weird American aunt dies, Matthew's cousin Sam comes to live with Matt, his SAHD and mother, and soon makes social life very difficult for him and his friends. They decide to give Sam a second chance if he can prove himself by infiltrating the local girl gang ("The Bitches". Yes.) as a girl, but soon changes and things go ~out of control~, the more so when Sam is predictably hit on by the class heartthrob, gets in touch with his emotions and falls for a girl, etc, etc

This book is one of the recommendations for queer fiction in one of the most popular German textbooks in the country, so obviously I had to investigate. I was disappointed very soon. In my opinion, if there was some kind of shitlist that warns readers of books which include trans- and homophobia in spades, "Boy2Girl" would definitely need to be on it.

I can't even put to words how much I loathe the entire "cross-dressing is hilaaaaarious! Especially if MAAB people do it!! But only so long as they get reaffirmed as cis, straight, manly masculine guys pronto!!"- thing. It's fucking annoying, and I don't get what the appeal of this book would be to cis/het people, either. Does it say to them that cross-dressing is only for wacky comedies? That, following the blurb, "hilarity ensues" once you overstep the reinforced steel boundaries of your gender? Because it certainly doesn't show that it's ok to do just that to me - there are scenes in which that seems to be the case, but mostly, there is a character to add a judgemental voice to the choir as soon as someone does the overstepping, which might be realistic, but unhelpful.

None of this wouldn't be redeemable if it wasn't cut off after the scene in which it is revealed to the general public that our hero is "really a boy" (uuugh big reveal scene ugh), and even though his entire character changed a lot (and for the better, seeing as how he seems to be much happier by the end of the book) it's unclear what will become of this change once he,  back in his male role, is no longer required to be ~girlish.

My biggest problem is that we get to read the voices of all characters apart from Sam, so there's no saying what he takes away from this, what his views and feelings are.

So, did I miss anything? Is this secretly good and I missed something because I was busy facepalming over people going on about "the g-word"?

And why anyone would want their kids to read this mess?
 
 
Current Mood: aggravated
 
 
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
 
 
Mothwing
03 March 2009 @ 12:04 pm
50 book challenge  
Let's see... homosexuality in Harvard, the GDR and medieval times and some old favourites. If I pass out half-way through of this, it's because I breathed in some dust of the bleach that I used to get our terribly grey towels white again. Just what I needed after the sudden attacks of nausea yesterday.

15.

Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold!, by Terry Brooks.
I am reading this with Crocky. We have talked about this series several times, and while I now don't enjoy it as much as I did when I read the series with fifteen, I still think he's handled the main character's acclimatisation and his various predicaments and his new surroundings very well. I had never realised how poor the writing is - but I wouldn't have. When I first read it, I had studied English as a foreign langauge at school for five years and my proficiency had me struggling with this book. I really dislike is Willow. Her characterisation drives me crazy. Even though she has a lot of potential the entire premise for their relationship is terrible, and her position in the story is frankly disappointing. No cookie points.


14.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool.
Provides a very sound overview and some very nice in-depths accounts on the various topics relating to etiquette and everyday life in the 19th Century.


13.
The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud.
When I read the first page of this novel five years ago, I fell in love. I am still in love, and re-reading this makes butterflies reappear in my stomach. Bartimaeus, Nathaniel and their relationship is incredibly charming.
I'm rereading this because Crocky has to read it for her paper and I want to be able to discuss it with her on a more informed basis.

12.


Thud, by Terry Pratchett.
I could read P'Terry's descriptions of fatherhood all day and I love the various darknesses, such beautiful ideas.


11.
Wyrd Sisters - The Play, adapted by Stephen Briggs.
Another one Crocky and I read and voice-acted together. She's a decent Granny, I must say, and I am rather happy with my rendition of Nanny. Neither of us makes a very good Vetinari or Carrot, though.


10.

Guards! Guards! - The Play. Adapted by Stephen Briggs.
This was actually Crocky's birthday present. We're reading it together, voice-acting the different parts. It's great fun.

9.

Sodom und Gomorrha - zur Alltagswirklichkeit der Verfolgung Homosexueller im Mittelalter, by Bernd-Ulrich Hergemüller ("Sodom and Gomorrha - on the everyday reality and persecution of homosexuals in the Middle Ages")
The gist seems to be that they weren't, really, not methodically, that is, up until the rise of the inquisition and the witch hunts. Homosexual behaviour was forbidden, of course, but apart from the few accounts which do exist of trials in which anal sex and homosexual paedophilia was the primary charge, people engaging in homosexual behaviour seem to have led a rather undetected life. The trials which do mention homosexuality seem to do so only on the grounds of adding more charges and underlining the moral depravity of the people charged - usually with large-scale theft and murder. It is noteworthy that homosexuals were referred to as Ketzer (heretics), and anal sex was known as ketzern. To go against the order of nature as god apparently intended it was heresy. When the witch hunts began and the tempers started to get tetchier the mere accusation was enough to light torches and the wooden stakes.

8.

Die Stumme Sünde - Homosexualität im Mittelalter, by Brigitte Spreizer. ("The Silent Sin - Homosexuality in the Middle Ages).
Very recommendable - it has many origininal sources in the appendix, and reading medieval laws for the proper behaviour of monks in convents makes fascinating reading, even though in some cases my Latin is too rusty to really understand everything.
Especially interesting for me was the development of the laws regarding anal penetration - it was always considered an Especially Bad Sin, but at first, during the times when pueri oblati were uncommon and men entered monasteries as adults, homosexual behaviour was merely one sexual sin among many. As novices entered the monastery at younger ages and the monastery was no longer a place for individuals to share a living space who usually would have become hermits, but took the place of the family in many cases, laws against homosexual behaviour became increasingly strict. Towards the end of that development, those penetrating the other man during anal intercourse were excluded from the monastery, while the one penetrated could hope for redemption.

It is important that medieval sex was divided into "natural" vs. "unnatural" sex and "active" and "passive" parts. "Natural" was only the sex which led to babies, every other sexual practice was "unnatural", therefore against the will of god, and forbidden. "Active" were those penetrating, "passive" the other ones. The "active" partner was usually punished more severely than the "passive" one.
In the beginning, monks had individual cells, but as sexual sins became increasingly bad, dormitories were reintroduced. In those, a young monk would sleep between two older monks to prevent the youngsters from being tempted to commit sins of the flesh. Monks were not allowed to see anyone naked, including themselves, and bathed in light shifts.They were never permitted to sleep in one bed together.

Also fascinating is the pornographic detail in which the kinds of forbidden sexual contact among nuns is described. Nuns were allowed to sleep in one bed - if it was a young and an older nun - but only if there was at least a room of two spans between them, they lay back to back, and did not speak a word until morning. Female homosexuality was regarded as less bad than anal penetration, but female sexual sins were as discouraged.

7.

Harvard's Secret Court, by William Wight.
It's an account of the purges of gay students from the campus after the suicide of one of them that occurred in the nineteen-twenties. Very shocking stuff, especially considering that the purges themselves led to more suicides and completely ruined the lives of the students in question. Not only did Harvard purge their names from the permanent records, they also sent out letters to explain why they dismissed this students if they chose to associate themselves with the university in any CV they wrote for an application to other schools or jobs. This meant that many of these students could not hope for further education at other schools at all or for jobs. The last of these letters was sent in the early seventies, if I remember correctly.
What struck me as very strange is Wight's last chapter which outlines the possibility that homophobia may be as genetically induced as homosexuality. While I get that he probably had to include something of the sort to stop him from being in trouble with the renowned university, it was still rather baffling to see him struggling to explain and absolve these decisions which had ruined the lives of some twenty students for decades to come, sometimes on the basis of mere association with gay students.
 

6.
Schwuler Osten - Homosexuelle Männer in der DDR, by Kurt Starke. ("Gay East - Homosexual Men in the GDR)

5.

The Black Jewels Trilogy, by Anne Bishop.
Wow. Bad. Already ranted about it here. I don't mind the torture, but the writing and the characters are so incredibly, horribly dull that we probably won't make it through this. It's a book about an evil, magical matriarchic society in which males are used as sex slaves. Needless to say, all the main characters with the exception of one little girl are male woobies. The girl has extra-special superpowers, but her only function seems to be to make the abused males feel better about themselves. The scary sexual violence and abuse is not as bad as the rampant paedophilia and I don't know how I'm going to face the person whose favourite series of novels this is when we give it back.

~~~

I think I'll attempt to eat some lunch now. I can't stand the sight of pretzel sticks and tea any more.
 
 
Current Mood: nauseated
 
 
Mothwing
22 January 2009 @ 10:51 pm
50 book challenge 2009  
4.
Going Postal, Terry Pratchett.
I decided to re-read it to find out whether I really like Spike. I am still not sure.
 
3.
 Making Money, Terry Pratchett
I wonder whether I should be worried about the fact that Spike is growing on me.

2.
 
Homosexualität und Crossdressing im Mittelalter, Stefan Micheler (ed.)
Very interesting indeed. Apparently, there were several cases of crossdressing in the middle ages, even though only a comparatively small number was documented. Women usually cross-dressed to get around being raped at war times, and men cross-dressed to avoid being killed. Women also cross-dressed to make an army appear bigger, and men to get out of warzones.
Homosexuality between men was frowned upon, though there are only few documents. Most of them are monastic documents. They have homosexuality as one sin among many and don't single it out, even though that changed as monastic tradition in Europe changed. In the beginning, they were places in which individuals who wished to isolate themselves to get more deeply in touch with god lived, each of them wanting to remove themselves from company, looking for loneliness. That changed in later years, when people started entering monasteries as children rather than adults. That shifted the structure of monasteries - suddenly, they needed to provide structure substituting families for the pueri oblati, and meant that rules to cull sexual innuendos among growing males were kept rare. This was achieved by introducing dormitories (younger brothers were placed between two older brothers) and rules about physical contact (monks were required to keep one cubit apart at all times) and nudity (outlawed - monks were encouraged not to look at their own naked body and to bathe in shrits). Active homosexual behaviour was punished  heavily (by exclusion from the monastery), and "passive" homosexuality faced seven years penance.

1.
A Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer. 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The set-up, the individual chapters, the topics, the time frame he chose - all is really good. The only thing that seriously bothered me and made me an increasingly frustrated reader is that this book is aimed exclusively at male time travellers. All the examples in which he attempts to write interaction have people adressing the traveller as "Sir", and the way he describes women makes it obvious that they are strange beings worth observing. It drove me up the wall, and I can't believe that someone who, like Mortimer, can put himself in the shoes of deeply religious plague-stricken peasants from the fourteenth century can find it so very hard to put himself in the shoes of female peasants. I suppose that one could argue that time-travellers to the fourtheenth century would be advised to appear as male as possible to avoid trouble, but I seriously doubt that he had this in mind.

 
 
Current Mood: tired