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 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
28 February 2014 @ 05:00 pm
Book Round-up: February  
15.


Rowling, J.K.: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Crocky and I are probably not the best fans considering how little we've actually been reading the books ever since the last movies came out. Sure, I've certainly flicked through them occasionally, but the last time the two of us read a book together was when DH came out. I love reading with her.


14.


Pratchett, Terry: Dodger
I really wanted to like this book. I don't. And ... I don't know what to say. I judge this author by much higher standards than any other, anyway, because his books meant and mean so much to me.They have a huge influence on how I see the world, their humanism and underlying optimism inherent especially in his late eighties and nineties books changed me and how I see people forever and made me a much happier person.
Sadly, somewhere around, oh, it may have been around Thud!, that seems to have gone lost forever and taken over more and more by the mandatory cynical grittiness that are apparently a mandatory hallmark to achieve depth these days. Dodger... I was scared of this book. There were many possibilities and pitfalls, and... it just doesn't work. The characters don't, the Dickensianism... also sort of doesn't, the historical figures didn't. Oh, and that love plot, too, but there aren't many love plots that I'd ever consider entirely necessary, so. Shame -there are many things that could have worked if he'd picked a different main character instead of writing Harry King's biography in Dickens' London.


13.


Davis, Lindsey: The Silver Pigs
Private Eyes in Vespasian's Rome, strong female characters, a walk through the underbelly of the Aventine, a fun read.


12.


Goldacre, Ben: Bad Science
Re-listening after finishing Bad Pharma.


11.


Galbraith, Robert: The Cuckoo's Calling
A very decent crime story by an not entirely unknown Scottish author who's shown before that they can do plots, and didn't disappoint here.
I liked the characters, I didn't like the moment when our sleuth tells the murderer what they'd done and they never actually confess or say much to agree or disagree with the sleuth's version. It seems strange that anybody would sit and listen at length to someone laying out what happened without any input from them, but this is a gripe I have with many crime novels with sleuths.
 
 
Current Mood: cheerful
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
 
 
 
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
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