07 November 2014 @ 08:27 pm
Books Round-up: November 1  

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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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... )


Strandberg, Mats; Bergmark Elfgren, Sara: Schlüssel
Back in Engelsfors, the remaining Circle witches are still busy trying to stop the apocalypse. Can they trust the strange forces trying to protect them? What about the Council, can they be trusted after all when they offer help? It is engaging enough for me to keep reading so as to finish it in two sittings and is still as character-driven as the first two instalments.Read more... )
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: okay
31 October 2014 @ 08:02 pm
Books round-up: October  

Heppermann, Christine: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
Feminist fairy tale poetry, a really enjoyable combination. The subjects often address issues of body image and self-worth as well as eating disorders, sometimes a little unsubtle, often times enjoyable through the lens of fairy tales. Some experiences are too US America specific to resonate with me, others seem truly universal.


Abedi, Isabel: Isola
Only read this book if its in your library, or don't, because you already know it and the cardboard characters never really come to life.Read more... )


Rothfuss, Patrick: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
More later, I have to reread this a couple of times to savour it. For now: The only thing that spoiled my reading experience of this beautiful volume was the author's constant need to apologise for this story which isn't run-off-the-mill and normal. This is incredible to me, and wrong - more of an apology would be needed for a story that is yet again the same as any other story.
This wasn't, and it was beautiful. I could have done without the frame story of Auri waiting for Kvothe, as I'd have loved to hear more about her time before the beginning of the plot of the Kingkiller Chronicle and her relationship with the masters. As it is, it remains a charming and saddening insight into her wonderous world in the belly of the university.


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


Jung, Marius: Singen können die alle!: Handbuch für Negerfreunde
Sometimes cynical, sometimes funny account of racism in Germany by a black comedian. He talks about his youth growing up as the black child of white middle class parents, his experiences as an actor in a country that still doesn't really realise not all of its inhabitants are whitee and white wannabe saviours.
I don't agree with the fact that political correctness is a bad thing, though I agree that it should not be the only underlying reason for changing one's behaviour.


Harris, Joanne: Gospel of Loki
I like this modern version of the Lokabrenna, which works as a prequel to Runemarks, though some details are different. The contemporary phrases that crop up annoyed me vaguely to the and I didn't see their point. They didn't endear the characters to me, if that was the idea.
Loki is as entertaining and human and as a prequel he couldn't have been much different, though I'd really like to see a Loki that does not suffer from this civilising softening. It makes us understand the characters as humans, but in their original context they were different, revered as forces of nature and arbiters of life a and death. they were also human, of course, but they were still fundamentally different. The difference seems to have home lost and turns gods into powerful mortals, superheroes. In the words of the novel, named and tamed.


Strandberg, Mats; Bergmark Elfgren, Sara: Zirkel
This is the first book in a long, looong time that I found that is:
1.) centred more or less exclusively on female teenaged characters,
2.) whose main plot isn't a love plot,
3.) who don't get raped.
Read more... )


Elsberg, Marc: Zero
The book seems more hurried and breathless than
his last one and less convincing. It is still an entertainingly fast-paced thriller, but the plot has its holes. Especially the random underground chases in Vienna and New York were too much, and while the concerns it raises about tech and choice are valid, it doesn't always do that in a very subtle way. I am also not overly keen on the ableism and the way neuroatypical people are portrayed here.


Carey, Jaqueline: Kushiel's Dart
I really enjoyed this book, and the world, and the fact that there was not as much slut-shaming and whorephobia as might have been expected in a book in which the main protagonist is a prostitute. The world's religious system is believable and interesting and the characters lovable. I don't recall it passing the Bechdel test, but there are several strong female characters and some of them are queer.
I did not like that there are no romantic relationships between women, hardly any sadistic or dominant women, no sadistic/dominant women who aren't evil, no romantic relationships that aren't heterosexual. One toe outside the box and then straight back in


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


Beagle, Peter S.; Gillis, Peter; De Liz, Renae; Dillon, Ray: The Last Unicorn
I have to admit that I've only read the book two or three times and have seen the movie version so often that I have no memory of how well the book version translates into the movie, which is one of my favourites. So I was not so much worried about the book as I was about my memories of the movie, but it translates, as I suppose this book does into all possible media. The short passages of text seem well-chosen, although as I mentioned I don't remember the text well-enough to judge, but my gut says they are.
The artwork is stunningly beautiful and I could stare at some of those panels for hours. The one thing that bugged me was that Schmendrick and Molly have undergone a serious makeover and the way the human unicorn looks is scary because she is so thin.


Brosgol, Vera: Anya's Ghost
I heard from this via Graphic Novels 4 Girls and really liked it. Anya and the difficulties she faces as a Russian immigrant ring true, although it is strange to me that she doesn't speak Russian at home, though I do understand that would be inconvenient for story purposes. I'd have liked seeing more interactions between Siobhan and Anya, but I can see that it wouldn't have fit into this very compact tale.
I was also positively surprised by this graphic novel as a graphic novel - it's good to see that there are diverse and positive role-models for younger girls at least, even though I find it hard to see the same applying to the "mature" end of this genre, which features gratuitous boob and gore panels more than truly mature topics.


Green, John: Looking for Alaska
The over-the-top love that my students have for this book shows me that I'm probably missing out. But I just don't understand it. I see very interchangeable, uninteresting characters involved in things that I, as a teenager, would have had no interest or part in in their situation because it seems designed to make things worse for them (no matter how bored or depressed, taking up drinking and smoking was never that attractive to me). Though the signs of characters' mental health issues are there in places, they don't ring true to me. The romance plot is superficial and only shows once more how mundanely boring "Pudge" is.


König, Tim: Ich bin ein Kunde, holt mich hier raus
I'm so embarrassed to have read that, even though I did get the audiobook at a very reduced price. It's really bad.
Read more... )


Pratchett, Terry: Dragons at Crumbling Castle.
Adorable short stories presented in a way that I can see children liking as much as adult fans.
Current Mood: happy
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
31 August 2014 @ 11:30 pm
Books round-up: August  

Frost, Toby: Space Captain Smith
It was... overall ok, really. You will most likely enjoy this book if you already like action comedies and using the words "romp" and "tongue in cheek". I don't, really, so I didn't. The British Space Empire parts were a fun premise, but the cardboard characters didn't deliver, for me. Also, I didn't get all the pop culture references, which I didn't think mattered that much, though. I don't think that pop culture references alone don't necessarily make things funny. The humour also wasn't always right for me- I don't think "does my butt look big in this?" is always funny, for one.
I don't like books that are trying hard to be funny, and this one did. The unrealistic action scenes were funny, but too over-the-top, some of the main character's convictions on being right about things like the inferiority of female characters and entities or their role weren't dealt with as funnily as the author may have intended. Complex characters this book doesn't have, but I still found myself caring about them enough to finish the book.


Healy, Christopher: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.
Crocky and I were reading this together and liked the unexpectedly complex characters, especially Briar was a pleasant surprise. The mixture between very PG-friendly lack of graphic detail and the violence getting stronger was a bit strange, because it is not likely that everybody survived the violence they encountered, but we aren't shown any of the dead bodies and there are no described corpses or dead bodies, so there's that. The various love stories bumble along, but they stay interesting.


Gier, Kerstin: Silber: Das Zweite Buch der Träume.
Crocky and I listened to thsi together, and did finish it, but it was extremely boring, and the heroine suffers from loss of intelligence ever since she got together with her equally boring boyfriend.
My favourite example is the part in the book in whcih she believes someone to be in grave danger and it would be sensible for her to go and warn someone, at least the next day, but she completely forgets about it for two chapters because her boyfriend shows up. Her


Gier, Kerstin: Silber: Das Erste Buch der Träume.
This book read like the premise for a very boring, very bad teenage het-romance story written by somebody who can write well but who can't write interesting characters. It was entertaining, Kerstin Gier certainly can write and knows her teenagers, but there are a lot of flaws. The short version: the way she is Not Like All Those Other Girls while not only being Exactly Like Those Other Girls, and also being One Of The Guys while berating other girls to backstab other girls. Also, all the male characters are assholes and don't treat her with the respect they'd give one of their own group.
Read more... )


Abdel-Fattah, Randa: Does My Head Look Big In This?
This novel detailing a "hyphenated Australian" teenager's experiences while wearing the hijab full time and her life in general offered me an interesting insight into multi-cultural Australia in the early 2000ies. I don't know much about this topic and the stories I'd heard before mostly detailed how horrid everything is for non-Anglo immigrants and especially for indigenous people.
Refreshingly, the author writes believable teenage girls that differ from each other in more than just one describing adjective (the NERDY one, the RELIGIOUS one, etc.). Many authors who write about teenagers can learn a LOT from this book, especially most of the insipid Fantasy romance types whose characters fall into this category.


Healy, Christopher: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.
This fairytale retelling mash-up of the stories of several Princes Charming won't change middle grade literature, but it's fun, will most likely be enjoyed by some the (rather younger) target demographic, and had us chuckling.
Read more... )
31 July 2014 @ 11:25 pm
Books round-up: July  

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.


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).


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.


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.


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.
30 June 2014 @ 11:08 pm
Books round-up: June  

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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


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
06 May 2013 @ 09:37 pm
Book challenge  

Mildred Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Mississippi in the thirties told from the POV of nine-years-old Cassie Logan. In many ways, Cassie is lucky, growing up on land owned by her family with her father working for the railroad to make ends meet and her mother as a school teacher, but that does not mean that they are unaffected by the Great Depression and the terrorist activities of those of her white neighbours who are members of the KKK.
Reading about racism through the eyes of nine-year old Cassie is both heartbreaking and scary at times because she often doesn't envision consequences of her or others' actions that older readers are doubtlessly aware off. It works well and makes this book really scary at times. The characters are all fleshed-out and lovely, and the language Taylor really brings them to life for me. I really enjoyed this book.
Current Mood: busy
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
19 April 2013 @ 06:50 pm
Kissing book  

Kerstin Gier, Smaragdgrün- Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten 3
The plot thickens after the cliffhanger-ending of the second instalment: is it possible that Prince Charming double-crossed the main lady and only faked being in love with her to be able to do so?
Of course not. This is teen Fantasy romance. The ending to the series is as well-written as the other two parts, but the plot bellyflops severely several times. I suppose you have to care most about the romance plot to like it, and I don't. It was still fun to read, though.
Current Mood: okay
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
17 March 2013 @ 10:20 am
Book challenge 2013  
Backdated, because who cares.

I am not convinced I'll do much better this year, as the main reasons why I didn't make it last year still exist and I'm down to barely two books a month. Also, I'm rereading so many books that I am not sure whether to count them or not.


Jim Butler, Storm Front
See my longer account on the book here. The short version: I did not like it much because of the misogynistic male character, though I wasn't that thrilled about the world either. And I thought you couldn't go wrong with a wizard private detective!


Kirsten Boie , Skogland
A shy girl takes the place of a princess after winning a casting show.
Not sure about this one yet. So far, I've only met one of the two main characters and she is very likeable. Maybe this goes onto the potential books I might read with my fifth grade, though.


Nora K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
I'm not very far in - so far the heiress of a slightly dilapidated Northern kingdom called Yeine Darr travels to the court and is named one of the potential successors of the current ruler, her grandfather, who disowned her mother for marrying a commoner. Various of her cousins are also interested in ruling the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and thus she is thrust into a power struggle in which both gods and mortals play a role.


Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
The Lancre coven is up against a group of modern vampires, an indecisive Omnian gets in an ax fight with vampires and a crisis of faith.
This goes well with Small Gods because of what Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats have to say about relativism.


Terry Pratchett,Small Gods
While the Omnian church is powerful and is busily being spread by the sword and the inquisition, their god finds himself incarnated into a small tortuous and sets out to find out what happened to his church with his one remaining believer.
Terry Pratchett once said in an interview that he got very positive reactions on this book both from Christians who consider this an incredibly pro-Christian book as well as from atheists who think this is a very anti-Christian book. This makes sense, because most atheists I know have issues with the OT rather than the NT, and this is a very pro-NT and a very anti-OT-book.


Patrick Rothfuss,The Wise Man's Fear
Kvothe leaves the university, becomes a court musician, sleeps with a sex fairy, is a Nice Guy(TM), kills lot of innocent people, takes a roat trip, and is a douche bag.
I'm torn on many parts because they piss me off, especially how the main character treats women. Pacing is a little off, but the author's language and world are still interesting enough to keep me interested.


Patrick Rothfuss,The Name of the Wind
An intelligent boy of varied talents called Kvothe grows up in a group of traveling performers in a renaissance European world, loses his parents to demonic fairy creatures, becomes a street urchin and a thief, gets his way into university, and starts searching for the forces who killed his parents.
I love this book because of the world building and the impeccable pacing of the narrative. The author is incredibly good at language and style. His main character is a bit of an annoying tit, but if you can get over him, this is a really rewarding and fun read.
Current Music: Spektrum - Florence and the Machine
Current Location: Germany, Bremen
Current Mood: okay
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 )
12 April 2011 @ 12:34 am
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.

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.

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).
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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
26 February 2011 @ 08:31 pm
If, after something undead and terrible from another world broke into my boarding school and my 18-year-old prefect subsequently walked up to me, the teacher, and informed me that the undead thing had been a messenger from her father, that her father had most likely been abducted by something else undead and terrible, and that now her plan was to,

1. go off to ski into the Mordor-du-jour-land-of-necromancy-and-the-undead,
2. by herself,
3. to find her father, a powerful necromancer, killed by something more powerful than himself,
4. with only her self-taught knowledge in Necromancy (she had read the entire textbook once!) and her father's sword to guide her,

I doubt my answer as a responsible teacher who had known her since she arrived at the school at the age of five would be,

"Ok, sure, go right ahead, bye!"
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
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
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
05 September 2010 @ 11:04 pm
I Shall Wear Midnight  
I finished it today.

I am really not what to make of it yet. I'm worried about a couple of things, especially with regards to word choices, and love others.

Spoilers and yes, trigger warnings. For domestic abuse and misogynistic language. Yes. In a Discworld novel.  )

So, I loved the way that coming of age in a misogynistic world as a powerful woman is dealt with, I really didn't agree with the way misogyny is portrayed. I have to think about this a bit more.
Current Mood: blank
11 July 2010 @ 03:50 am
... the hell is this?  
It's hot. I am bored. I'm unemployed. I have nothing else to do. Still. What the hell is this? Someone posted this on [ profile] theaudiolibrary  and in spite of better knowledge, I gave it a try. I'd like to believe that this is ironic, but I can't, because this is so close to similar nice-guy narratives. It'd make a good litmus test for feminist allies, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this as in the comic books/graphic novels the hero enshrines, I really, really don't manage to see the appeal.
29 July 2008 @ 05:27 pm
Reading Autumn Term, by Antonia Forest  
Crocky and I are reading Autumn Term by Antonia Forest together at the moment, taking turn with reading out loud and doing crafty things or playing games while the other is reading. It's a great way to spend the holidays, and I love reading books with her.


Autumn Term, by Antonia Forest.
It's one of the Faber Children's Classics, and it is utterly awesome. Even though I had the feeling that it must have been published a hundred years before it actually was published, it is a really enjoyable read.

It describes the first term at school of the twins Nick and Lawrie, who join their four older sisters at an all-girls boarding school. Instead of immediately making IIIA like all their sisters did, they are downgraded to the Third Remove because they were not able to learn a lot at home due to various illnesses. Their attempts to shine like their siblings generally end in dismay, until one of their friends decides to write, direct and produce a stage-play for the school's open day, The Prince and the Pauper, in which the twins receive main roles and which earns them a lot of recognition.

The plot is not really the main reason to enjoy this book, but the all-girls boarding school thing got me, as well as the absolutely wonderful characters and the author's style.The interaction between the sibling is very spot on, the language is pretty, the characterisation is subtle and the characters are lovely. Even though I can't say I am interested in Lawrie and Nick a lot, it's still fun reading their exploits, even though I am more interested in their siblings, especially Kay and Rowan.

Both of us have a literature crush on Rowan, enough of a crush to try and get hold of the the other copies through our library system from Great Britain, because all the other instalments are out of print and to get them I'd have to pay £90 for the first edition paper backs.

We were so endeared by the interactions and the characters that we started awarding favourability points for the characters and started plotting in this chart with reference to the scene which scored each character points as favourites.
It became very obvious very early on that Rowan was going to win by a LOT.

Ginty (Virginia)
Karen (Kay)IIII
Laurie (Lawrence)
Nick (Nicola)  
Tim (Thalia)I
Ms KeithI
Ms JenningsII

Quotes )

So, the book is a real gem, as boarding school novels go, and I do not understand why the other instalments had to sink into obscurity that they are out of print while this one has become a classic.
08 July 2008 @ 02:38 pm
50 book challenge  

Slam, by Nick Hornby.
Still one of my favourite books, and I am still not sure what to think of the content. It is an interesting commentary on teenage fatherhood, in a genre in which I've only ever encountered accounts of teenage motherhood, and the style make this one awesome, but there are just some things I really have problems with, like Sam being "whizzed into the future" by a poster. Just... No.


Herr Lehmann, by Sven Regener.
The first chapter I slept through entirely. I was bored and annoyed by the main character and really, really could not be bothered to feel for him. This continued to stay the same until his best friend was about to have a nervous breakdown. Before that, the plot just seems to be incredibly bland, and the style aggravating, a variation of "young male intellectual gets laid by beautiful woman". Who at first appears to be a match for his loquaciousness, but then is of coursed too baffled by the sheer force of his manly maleness and rhetoric to continue being brainy.
From the moment on at which his best friend starts cracking up I started to love this story, and now the novel's strange, passiv and detached, yet supposedly brilliant and completely useless main character are somehow endearing to me. The way it utterly fails to give an account or relate the events in this novel to the political situation of the Wende is believable, as the more significant events of the political reality completely get lost among the gritty, smaller events of every-day life.
Current Mood: calm
20 June 2008 @ 01:21 pm
50 book challenge  

A Series of Unfortunate Events - The End, by Daniel Handler.
I am still not sure what to make of this ending. There seem to be some loose ends, but I daresay that it's possible to assemble clues from the series to fill in the blanks. I don't really know what to make of the dilemma that the last book's end presented me with, though, and I like that. It seems that the series itself leaves the heroes in this grey zone between heroes and villains, and that is a really awesome thing to do at the end of a series for young readers. I also loved learning more about Count Olaf's backstory, curiously enough.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Penultimate Peril, by Daniel Handler.
Another better novel. It's awesome to finally meet the sister of the fictional author of the story. The added information on the main plot were really worth the read, although I had a hard time justifying the actions of the children towards the end of the series. It seems very hard to do, and even though I feel that the plot means to make them remain in the roles of heroes, their actions rather show that they have become, in fact, villains. I'm really curious how the last book deals with that.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Grim Grotto, by Daniel Handler.
Another great instalment that was fun reading. Especially the introduction of yet another grey zone between heroes and villain made this book really awesome for me.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Slippery Slope, by Daniel Handler.
I loved this one, really loved. The way the romance sub-plot is not played out as something of utmost importance, finding out about V.F.D, the continued use of the Swinburne-quote - I loved it. Finally, the overall plot has gathered some momentum, and the style continues to stay awesome. I also stopped being aggravated by the lack of realism in the baby's behaviour.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Carnivorous Carnival, by Daniel Handler.
This book was really interesting. It's slightly depressing that this is really the first one which is so thoroughly entertaining and quite suspenseful at times, although I couldn't say whether or not this wasn't already the case in the eighth book, which was out at the time and which I had to skip.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Vile Village. by Daniel Handler.
Yay! Finally! Plot! The return of the useless guardian is even made bearable by that.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Ersatz Elevator, by Daniel Handler.
This book had one of the most annoyingly unrealistic scenes of the entire bloody series - the baby climbing up the elevator using her teeth. No creative licence in the world can make that ok. Also, the reappearance of the one evil-and-one-incompetent-guardian-thing makes this boring. The glimpses of an underlying plot of the series makes it worth the read, though.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Austere Academy, by Daniel Handler.
I really enjoyed reading about the Triplets, although the more blatant moments of children's literature and the resulting lack of realism and sense were annoying again. I liked that there seems to be plot on the horizon there somewhere. Can't wait.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Miserable Mill, by Daniel Handler.
Yawn. Also, the less realistic things are getting annoying. I still enjoy the Snicket parts and the style, but the children's book literature moments get on my nerves.
Current Mood: awake
03 June 2008 @ 11:57 am
50 book challenge  

A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Wide Window, Daniel Handler.
I hated this one with the passion of a hundred flaming suns. Why? Because of the fact that one of the brats thought that the henchman of the sinister Count Olaf whose gender is unclear is the "scariest", and apparently because of that alone, and because they called hir an "it".
The "hooked arm" and "wooden leg" things were bad enough, but this one was really over the top, as it seemed to be the only reason for the person to be horrible.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Reptile Room, Daniel Handler.
Even as a young child I would have found Mr Poe too aggravating to believe. I do wonder about the dedications of the books, though, and I've come to like the tone. On the whole, the backstory of Lemony Snicket is far more interesting to read about and think about than the children's predicament. The two layers of the story work very well together.
Maybe it's only because I've gotten used to them, but the characters seem rather likeable all of the sudden, and although I still find it very difficult to actually sympathise with them, they do seem likeable.


A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Bad Beginning,  Daniel Handler.
I think I'm only reading the series because I couldn't resist the temptation and irresistible appeal of the cover and design of the books.
I have to say that I hated the movie, but that was mostly due to the presence of Jim Carey whom I really can't abide. I think that the Eternal Sunshine and The Truman Show were the only movies which feature him which didn't make me aggressive and nauseous in equal parts.
Something about the books strikes me as incredibly phoney, which may well be the attempt to stuff as much Gothic-novelesque imagery into this book as humanly possible combined with the language. It's like a Tim Burton movie in book form for early readers.
The language of the narrator annoys me slightly, but I think that I would have enjoyed the books as a young child, before the missing logic would have gotten on my nerves.
Current Mood: awake
Current Location: Universität Hamburg, Germany