BerlinBibliophile's Books of 2019
Join LibraryThing to post.
Happy New Year everyone!
This year I plan to continue to try to read more books that I already own rather than buying new ones all the time. That's difficult for me, but if I don't try I won't get anywhere at all, will I?
And now, on to my first book of the year, which I started reading at three in the morning on the train home from a New Year's Eve party.
1. Murder by the Book, Claire Harman
I really enjoyed this book. It takes an interesting moment from history, a brutal murder, and uses it as an occasion to not only talk about the murder itself, but about the influence of the emerging mass media and the way the event influenced public opinion on popular culture.
The murderer in this case, in one of his many contradictory statements about his crime, said that he had been driven to commit the murder by a popular book about a criminal, Jack Sheppard. A media frenzy about morality in popular culture followed. I thought it was especially interesting in comparison to today, when the new mass medium of video games is often blamed for violence, instead of popular novels, as it was then. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And one thing that stays the same is that Claire Harman writes excellent and entertaining books.
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Miriam, this year.
Happy New Year, Miriam. The Harman book sounds interesting. I will look for it.
Happy reading in 2019, Miriam!
We are planning a stay in Berlin early May, let me know if you would like to meet us.
>2 PaulCranswick: thank you, Paul! A very happy new year to you as well, and I hope that you will enjoy meeting all your reading goals.
>3 drneutron: thank you!
>4 BLBera: happy new year! I really enjoyed it, and it's not too long, so it's not a huge commitment in case it's not your style. But I thought it was great. :)
>5 FAMeulstee: Happy reading! Sounds good! What will you be doing here?
2. Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, Alison Weir
Another tale from Alison Weir I really enjoyed. I think it's great that she portrays these six women in ways we maybe aren't used to seeing them in - Anne Boleyn as very reluctant about a relationship with the king, Jane Seymour as enthusiastically consummating her own relationship to the king before they are married. I think it does one good to have one's view of historical figures shaken up every once in a while, and to remember that very much of what we "know" about them is supposition.
And quite apart from that, this is a really good character study and a very entertaining novel.
I especially enjoyed it because I visited Hampton Court Palace while I was reading this book, and it was amazing to see evidence of these events still there hundreds of years later. Catherine of Aragon's pomegranates decorating a doorway, one of Anne Boleyn's crowned eagles in a corner of the ceiling of the great hall, Jane Seymour's Phoenix rising from a castle decorating the whole ceiling just one room further on... amazing that we still have these things to look at now.
3. The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
This book is a little strange. It has very little plot, it is simply a detective, laid up in bed, examining the facts of the case of the Princes in the Tower with the help of some historical fiction, some school books, some biographies, and a research assistant. This book seems less a novel and more an argumentative line for the reader to follow. Now, I agree with most of Tey's conclusions. But it still feels a little patronising to have all the right answers spoon-fed to the audience in small easily digestible chunks, all the while the policeman is thinking about the stupidity of historians and how very obvious this all is to right-thinking people with common sense. It also stretches credulity that a young man with no actual job at the British Museum is able to find, get access to, and read all relevant contemporary and Tudor documents in a matter of days and with apparent ease.
4. The Hills Have Spies, Mercedes Lackey
I was a bit disappointed in this. Usually, I love Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, but this one just didn't work for me. It starts with the fact that the plot only starts moving because Mags, who we've been following now for eight books, makes the most un-Herald-like decision of his life, and decides to just not rescue kidnapped Valdemarans who are being held as slaves.
Everything is also just a little bit too easy, with two daring rescues of baby animals whose families end up doing all the heavy lifting in their little spy operation. Then again, it couldn't really be considered competent spying to pretend to be an intellectually disabled boy (pretty offensive) who stays in the dog kennels all the time and makes no attempt to find out what has happened to the kidnap victims or where they are. Finally, the ending. The villain self-destructs, making Mags' and Perry's presence completely irrelevant, and they end up saving not a single person. All the kidnapped people have been brutally murdered and eaten while Perry was messing about with the dogs. There is no urgency at all in the point-of-view characters about saving them, and they seem to be entirely forgotten in a plot that is ostensibly about saving them. Very stupid, un-Herald-like behaviour all around. This book made me like Mags much less as a person and character, and I can't say I had a good start with perry either.
I so hope that Mercedes Lackey will finally start writing books about ANYONE other than Mags again.
>6 BerlinBibliophile: We have our vacation in Berlin from 6 to 12 May. Doing touristy things, sightseeing, visiting museums. We have planned a visit to the Komischer Oper on the evening of the 9th. Maybe we can have diner with you, and/or spend an afternoon or evening together, if you have time.
>8 FAMeulstee: that sounds good! I would like that. I should be in Berlin then. I don't know my schedule yet though, because that is next semester.
5. Warcross, Marie Lu
I read this book for a reading challenge, and wasn't sure about it before I started, but I ended up quite liking it. The protagonist was very likeable and her life was interesting, and the world the book is set in was cool. The plot twist at the end was a bit obvious, but the ending still managed to be suspenseful up to that point. I will be checking out the next book.
>9 BerlinBibliophile: I will hear from you when you know your scedule.
>1 BerlinBibliophile: You hit me with a BB right from the start, Miriam. I have added that one to the BlackHole.
Have a great reading 2019! Best of luck to you on reading more from your shelves.
>10 FAMeulstee: That will only be in April, I'm afraid, when the next semester starts. But I'm sure we'll be able to find some time we both have free.
>11 alcottacre: Thank you! I'm trying, but I must admit that so far I've mostly been reading new books. Christmas presents always want to skip ahead in the queue somehow... :)
6. The Language of Thorns, Leigh Bardugo
I really loved this collection of original fairy tales set in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Verse. All the stories are wonderful, but they have such different flavours that it's easy to believe that they really do come from different cultures and countries. They are also beautifully illustrated. It's breathtaking to see the illustrations grow and blossom from page to page, and finally to find an amazing full-page illustration at the end of each chapter, which sums up the characters wonderfully. I think the illustrations here are not just decoration, they are in a dialogue with the text that deepens the understanding of both.
It's a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.
7. 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear, James Shapiro
This book focuses on Shakespeare's creative output during a single year, 1606, and on the historical events which influenced that creativity. As always, Shapiro strikes a great balance when writing about Shakespeare, between giving the reader the possible options at times when the historical record is unclear (which is most of the time) and still cautioning against speculation and transparently biographical readings of his plays.
He draws a convincing picture of a year in which crisis followed after crisis. 1606 saw the prosecutions and executions of the men behind the Hunpowder Plot of November 5 1605, as well as the propagandistic fight against equivocation, demonic possessions, James I's frustrated quest for Unity of his kingdoms, a state visit from the king of Denmark, and a terrible plague outbreak. No wonder that this time of a shifting status quo led to Shakespeare's plays of that year to include echoes of all these events.
James Shapiro is always great when it comes to Shakespeare, and in this case he writes a really good, readable account that draws together many confusing historical strands into a greater whole. This book left me feeling that I now knew more about these Shakespearean plays, which I had already studied in extensively, than I did before.
8. A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro
Well, this was a bit disappointing. I love the Sherlock Homes stories and many adaptations and reworkings, but this just didn't work. I felt like this book was trying to be too many things at once. It wanted that YA fun and whackiness and boarding school setting, but it also wanted serious adult storylines, which is how you end up with twelve year olds doing endless amounts of cocaine and oxycodone. For a story inspired by Sherlock Homes, the characters also do remarkably little detecting, seeming to stumble from clue to clue and inevitably drawing the wrong conclusions from them. The characters also aren't very well fleshed out, and that leads to big emotional moments that feel unearned. I'm not going to see the crushing betrayal of the good friend as a big deal if they have previously barely interacted on page.
Finally, while the basic solution to the mystery was good enough, it was ruined wit an unneccessary sequel hook that distracted from the actual murderer.
I expected more from this book.
You have made a strong reading start to 2019, Miriam.
Have a lovely Sunday.
>15 PaulCranswick: yes, I was surprised to see I'd read so much already :) I think it's because I feel like I can avoid my master's thesis when I'm reading and feel less guilty about it than if I were watching TV. :D
9. If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson
I read this book with the Life's Library book club, and I really loved it. I had never heard of it before, but despite being 20 years old it felt very relevant today.
I liked the deliberate way in which Jacqueline Woodson chose her words in this book, each one picked so carefully and infused with so much meaning. The book conveys emotions and impressions incredibly well, and focuses less on action and dialogue, but it really workd very well for a story about teenage love. Switching between Ellie and Miah's point-of-view chapters was also really interesting and helpful in showing their different perspectives and backgrounds, even though I wish Woodson had explored Ellie's Jewishness more, in addition to focusing on Miah's Blackness.
Still, this is a beautifully, economically written book about first love which still manages to tell important truths about society twenty years after its first publication.
10. Jugend ohne Gott, Ödön von Horváth
What a book. Horváth somehow manages to pack an innovative narrative style, a murder inquiry, and biting social commentary on Nazi Germany and the negotiation of truth and responsibility under a repressive regime all into one short book.
The style, with its short staccato sentences and its characters identified only by their function in society, works incredibly well to convey the Teacher's alienation from his society and from the young boys he daily interacts with. He sees them be educated in nationalism, racism, and brutality, and he sees the effects of the Nazi regime on the less privileged children he encounters as well. Horváth really wrote a book that perfectly encapsulates the impossible conflict between conscience and desire to survive in Nazi Germany. The fact that the Nazis banned his book only goes to show how very successful he was at that.
I highly recommend this book.
>18 FAMeulstee: I'm glad, I hope you will find it interesting. It was written at a time when the Nazis were in power but the war hadn't started yet, and that is a time period I think more people should know about; the slow increase in oppression and discrimination and brutalization before these things were openly stated.
11. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
I think this book was well-written, with an interesting premise, but I would have appreciated it more if it had been shorter by about a quarter. There are long stretches of nothing and more nothing, and so many character interactions repeat again and again that it becomes a bit taxing in the middle part. I must also say that the more I read about Dr. Faraday, the protagonist, the less I liked him. Nonetheless, the writing is very evocative, one can almost taste the dust in the air in Waters' descriptions of the hot summer country lanes, and Hundreds Hall is described so vividly as to be a protagonist itself. And the plot, in which one is never quite sure what is supernatural and what is psychological, is interesting and works very well in the post-war setting among the impoverished gentility of rural England. The ending, especially, was really tense despite the slow unfolding of the final "confrontation".
12. Die Hüter der Rose, Rebecca Gablé
I quite enjoyed this book. The characters are great, even if they don't always make the best decisions, and it's nice to see the family theme and how the family relationships change and grow over the course of this very long book. The setting of 15th century England was very well realised, and while it might have been slightly softer than reality, it was still believably historical. Even a frankly rather ridiculous scene of a satanic mass turns out to have a strong historical basis in fact...
I'm looking forward to reading more books in this series.
13. Courtiers, Lucy Worsley
This book had an interesting approach to history. Lucy Worsley used the courtiers depicted in the King's Staircase in Kensington Palace to tell the stroy of the first two Georgian kings. The paintings contains a wide selection of courtiers, from the highest-ranking in the land down to milliners and the court pet, Peter the Wild Boy.
By taking this approach, Worsley avoids focusing only on the royals, and instead gives a more rounded, more complete picture of Georgian life at court. It is also very readable and full of interesting information, so I had a good time reading it.
14. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
This is a great book. It combines humour with childhood anecdotes, but also with an exploration of the reality and aftermat of Apartheid. It's amazing what humour can do: Trevor Noah manages to make a story of his mother throwing him out of a moving car to escape threatening men sound funny with the way he tells it.
Noah prefaces each chapter with some facts about Apartheid, the way it worked, and didn't work, and the legacy it left behind, and I really appreciated learning more about a topic I didnt know very much about.
Finally, as a German, I very much appreciated his chapter on the relativity of monstrousness. After being educated in German schools, I never thought to question my perception of Hitler's status as the worst monster in history. Noah makes a very good case for the personal nature of such beliefs, and how they are influenced by one's own people's experiences of monstrousness and cruelty. And somehow, he manages to make the reader laugh even during that chapter. Thatshows his quality as an amazing comedian as well as a great storyteller.
15. Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
This is an amazing collection of essays. Gay writes about gender, race, and popular culture, as well as about her own life and experiences, and she manages to synthesize all these topics into relevant, well-written essays that stay interesting throughout this book. All of these essays are great, and many of them taught me something new, or to see something from a different perspective, and that is one of the marks of a great essay collection. There are no duds here, only insightful commentary on today's culture.
16. The Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie
I really liked this story, but I wish there were more Miss Marple in it. The characters are nicely realized (if very stuck in their time) and the mystery has a great twist. It's one of the classics of the genre and I definitely recommend it.
>24 FAMeulstee: I think what I liked most was precisely that combination of learning and laughing. so good.
17. Inspektor Takeda und die Toten von Altona, Henrik Siebold
I enjoyed this book, and especially the protagonists. It was interesting to read about life in Germany from an outside perspective, and the Japanese inspector interacted with such a complex tangle of political ideologies that it was actually a nuanced exploration of the current political climate. Even though the female protagonist was rather stereotyped, I hope she will be developed further in future books.
The mystery was really interesting, and I did not see the solution coming. I wish the ending had been slightly less rushed, but everything was mostly explained, I would just have liked to see some more consequences.
18. King of Scars, Leigh Bardugo
I really enjoyed this continuation of the Grisha Verse. It's great to see the characters again, from both previous series in this setting. I especially liked Nina's storyline in Fjerda, and the way that it gives more depth to the Fjerdan people beyond "they hate Grisha". The political problems facing Ravka after a bloody civil war are also fascinating, and it was interesting to see Nikolai and and Zoya deal with them. In fact, I sympathized more with Zoya than I had thought possible when she was first introduced.
My one issue with this book is that I wish Bardugo had come up with a new villain for this story, as she had seemed to do, rather than making the characters refight the old bad guy again. Otherwise, I was very happy with this read.
19. Brightly Burning, Mercedes Lackey
This is such a sad book, but the journey is always worth it. It's amazing to me that Mercedes Lackey manages to cram so much character development into such a short book, and to do it without any of this feeling rushed. The ending is, as always, a gut punch.
20. Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, Melissa de la Cruz
This book works neither as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice nor as a story in its own right. The characters are all pretty shallow, awful people, and to be honest the main couple seems terrible for each other. The author also doesn't seem to understand that Darcy and Elizabeth changing and growing into better people is an essential part of the plot and appeal of the original story, and her characters find out that growth, or reconsidering their prejudices, is unneccessary, because it was all that mean psycho Charlotte's fault for keeping them apart. I hated pretty much all the characters, and none more so than Darcy, our protagonist. Her entire character seems to exist solely to spout off about how wealthy she is and how little she cares about other people. I mean, she plans to name her child after Ayn Rand characters! Luke, out Elizabeth stand-in, doesn't go much beyond "sexy arms and snobbery" either.
If you're interested in the story, do yourself a favour and read Pride and Prejudice instead of this butchering of it.
>27 BerlinBibliophile: I will take your advice and avoid Ms de la Cruz's butchery.
Have a lovely weekend, Miriam.
>28 PaulCranswick: I'm glad I persuaded you! I wouldn't want to inflict that book on anyone. I hope you have a great weel!
21. A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit
I read this book with the Life's Library book club. I can't say I enjoyed it much.
The first half of the chapters was usually great, full of beautiful, evocative descriptions of landscapes and animals, particularly of the desert. Solnit is a really great writer for descriptions of places and their atmospheres. But then the second half of the chapters would veer off into something different with the barest connection to the first half, which was usually much less interesting and coherent.
I also felt that Solnit often brought up violent, traumatic events in uhman history simply for shock value, and then did not discuss them. There were passages about slaves kept in Nazi brothels, about bombings of civilians in the Iraq war, dehumanising descriptions of LGBTQ+ people suffering from oppression, all without any engagement with or discussion of the implications. Solnit simply brought them up casually, shocked the reader, and moved on to something unconnected.
22. Graceling, Kristin Cashore
I still really enjoy this book many years after I first read it. I love the characters and their stories. The concept of the Graces is great, and Cashore really does a lot with the concept. The only thing that distracted me from the awesome story was the worldbuilding. It seemed so basic and uncreative that I felt thrown out of the story every time geography was mentioned. But that is my only quibble, everything else about this book is great.
23. The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory
I really enjoyed this book! I don't normally read romance novels, but this one really caught my interest right away. The proposal at the beginning is so hilarious and disastrous that I really wanted to see the fallout from that. And I really loved the characters as well. Nik and her friends were great, and seemed so real and reminded me of my own friend group. And the relationship between Nik and Carlos was great as well, by the end I was very invested in their happiness together.
24. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
I really loved this book as a teenager, and reading it again now just reinforced that opinion. The characters are great, I especially liked the dynamic between Katniss and Haymitch. They don't really like each other, but they understand each other so well, much more so than Katniss and Peeta do. It's just one of the subtle ways Suzanne Collins builds the social stratification of her world into the very fabric of the characters. The worldbuildig is phenomenal in any case, the dystopia of the all-powerful Capitol and the oppressed Districts works incredibly well for the point Collins is making. The storytelling is so suspenseful, and the story being told is important and amazing. I really recommend this book to anyone interested either in YA or in resistance to oppression.
25. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
I think the Hunger Games series is the one Young Adult series that really gets its dystopia and resistance right. There are real, brutal stakes, and the book makes it clear over and over again that the real enemy is the Capitol, not the other Districts, who are being oppressed differently, but oppressed nonetheless. The ending of this book makes that perfectly clear, and I think it is the focus, not on the action and the pretty dresses, like in so many other YA dystopias, but on theories of oppression and resistance, and on the terrible consequences that can be the result, that sets this book apart. The political situation in this book is so much more complicated than in the last book, and I think that this complicated political framework makes the book as good as it is. Again, I strongly recommend it.
26. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
This ending is always hard to read, but it is the right ending for the story these books tell. It's brutal, yes, but that is necessary to drive home the point, and Katniss's final decision in the end is the culmination of that.
There are a lot of great character moments in this book still, like Finnick's and Annie's wedding, and Johanna and Katniss training, and Crazy Cat. But in this book everyone is also damaged by their losses, and Suzanne Collins portrays that convincingly. Both Katniss and Peeta have trouble recognisind the truth, and that is due to their entire histories with the Hunger Games in these books, and with their constant exposure to and forced participation in propaganda. The fact that Katniss is a terrible actress and incredibly bad at staged propos while being incredible when she is allowed to be spontaneous is such a politically powerful contrast as well, not between the Capitol and District 13 but between the powerful people in charge on both sides and the normal people and the soldiers who are actually dying for these people's causes.
>33 PaulCranswick: thank you, Paul! Have a good week.
27. Sovereign, CJ Sansom
I mostly enjoyed this book. By the ending, the conspiracies were getting a bit too improbable for my liking, but overall I still enjoyed the mysteries and their solutions. There was a bit about two thirds of the way through where the book lost steam for a hundred pages or so, after the first mystery was solved, but then it picked up speed again for the conclusion.
What I especially appreciated was how everyone in this book communicated. Too often in crime novels do the protagonists keep everything to themselves to hide things from their superior officers or from each other. In this book, Shardlake and his assistant Barack always kept each other up to date on their investigation so that they both had all the information. And even their boss, though he hated them, took them seriously and believed them when they told him that someone was trying to kill Shardlake, instead of dismissing their theories. Whenever they came to him with a new theory, he was sometimes insulting, but always at least took the time to listen to their news. I appreciated this sensible approach to communication, which is rare in crime novels.
28. Brightly Burning, Alexa Donne
This book is inspired by Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Alexa Donne does a really good job in staying true to the theme and character beats of the story without just retelling it plotpoint for plotpoint. The setting of a slowly dying fleet orbiting Earth is great, and the plot works really well in that setting. Stella, the Jane Eyre character, works great as a protagonist. Her perspective strongly tinges the narration and makes it more personal, and she keeps all the great bits of Jane Eyre's character, like her steadfastness and dedication to her young charges. This is, in my opinion, how retellings of the classics should work: by staying true to the characters and seeing what transferring them into a new setting can reveal about the themes and social issues present in the original and the retelling.
29. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
I love this book so very much. I reread it on the 12th of march in remembrance of Terry Pratchett, as well as to refresh my memory of it before the TV series comes out.
This book has such an amazing cast of characters, all of them very different but great. The way all the strands of the narrative come together at the end is masterful. Every time I read the book I focus on something different, and I always have a great time with it. This time I focused on the storyline of Anathema and Newt. I noticed that they really have very few scenes in comparison with, for example, Aziraphale and Crowley or the Them. Still, in those few scenes we get a very complete picture of the two of them, and of who they are as charcters and which role they have to play in the narrative. I feel like I know them both so well, and that shows the quality of the writing. In so comparatively few words, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have built up such a complete, well-rounded picture of these two people that I feel like I would recognise them if I met them on the street.
It's always a pleasure to read such a well-crafted book.
30. Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I really enjoyed this book. The short chapters work really well to convey the way that Ari's mind jumps from one topic to another, and they also make it really hard to stop reading! Just one more chapter is never enough.
Sáenz does an amazing job of capturing the transitional nature of a teenager's life, and how that can lead them to not understand others, or even themselves. This book is also full of secrets, ones Ari keeps and ones which are kept from him, and although it is frustrating to see him build his life around so many blank spaces it is immensely satisfying when some of them de get filled in.
And of course, his relationship with Dante is incredible. It's complex and messy and beautiful, and seems so real.
31. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
It always takes me a while to get into the stream-of-consciousness narrative style, but it's always worth it once I do. It's fascinating to see the different thought processes of the many characters that appear, extensively or only for one quick scene, in this brilliant novel. If you put in the time and concentration, you really get a disproportionately high return on it by reading Virginia Woolf.
32. Eine Odyssee: Ein Epos, Mein Vater und Ich, Daniel Mendelsohn
This book is very different from what I usually read, but it was really interesting to me. I read the Odyssey years ago, and it was fascinating to delve deeper into it, especially in connection with illustrative example from the author's own life. The author's recollections of his father were mostly interesting as well, but repeated themselves quite often and built up on one another. Part of ring composition or a happy accident? Doesn't really matter, the effect is there.
But what I liked best in this best were the bits about etymology and the structure of the ancient Greek epics and the themes of the Odyssey. Very nerdy, but very cool to me.
33. milk and honey, rupi kaur
The poems are in turns lovely, thought-provoking, and infuriating, in the best way. They are short, but pack so much truth and impact into a small package. The illustrations go perfectly with them, each enhancing the other.
I'll want to come back to this poetry collection again and again.
34. Persuasion, Jane Austen
I love this book more and more every time I read it. I appreciate Anne more all the time, and I guess the quiet way in which Wentworth cares for Anne's comfort and respect almost from the beginning of their re-acquaintance is starting to appeal to me more than the grand romantic gestures of some other Austen romantic heroes. That scene in the beginning where Wentworth frees Anne from the nephew who is climbing all over her while she is trying to nurse his brother, while all others simply sit around and ignore it is so telling. He metaphorically frees her from the unreasonable demands her family make on her and shows that he still cares for her well-being, even if he hasn't yet admitted it to himself.
The scene in which Anne talks to Captain Hardwick about the longevity of men's and women's feelings also strikes me. Anne's comment about the pen having been in men's hands due to education is so true, and also speaks to the importance of the representation of marginalised communities in literature.
35. Discount Armageddon, Seanan McGuire
I read this book because I was feeling October-Daye-withdrawal. I didn't like it quite as much as Toby's books, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.
I liked the plot and the supporting cast, especially Candy and the Aeslin mice, and I liked the balancing act Verity has to pull off between her life as a cryptozooologist and her life as a professional ballroom dancer.
I was less convinced of her little romance with the Covenant guy. I thought he treated her badly, even quite apart from his genocidal tendencies.
My overall first impression of this series was still good, however, so I will keep reading in the hopes that I will really love the next one.
36. The Castle of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe
Wow, it has taken me ages to actually finish this book. And this is certainly a book of extremes, not only in the time it took me to read it. This book is both excruciatingly boring for long stretches of time and packed with action and excitement, more than enough to fill three books with adventures. There are bandits and corpses, kidnappings and cases of mistaken identity, and the heroine faints aproximately every three pages. At the same time, there are long, looong stretches of constantly repeated descriptions of the beauty of the landscape, to the point that I got heartily sick of that scenery altogether.
I'm glad to have read this book because of its importance to the development of the novel and of women's writing, but I wouldn't call it a good book.
37. Transparencies, Meg Bateman
I really enjoyed this collection of poetry. For some of the poems, I didn't have the frame of reference to really understand what they were written about, but that does not mean I didn't enjoy them, if only for the wonderful sound they make when read aloud. Other poems really spoke to me, especially "Language". The poetry in this collection was incredible at conjuring up beautiful visions in the mind's eye, such as the wonderful nature evoked in "The Year's Flowers".
38. Parasite, Mira Grant
I liked this book better on my second read. I now appreciate Sal and Nathan much more, both their individual characters and their relationship. It's wonderful to have one area of the book in which I don't have to question everyone's motives and truthfulness. I mean, even Sal's parents are manipulating her and don't seem to have her best interests at heart.
The idea of the parasites it horrifying, and I'm sure that's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
I'm excited to continue reading the series and seeing what else it has in store for me.
39. Symbiont, Mira Grant
I had a different reaction to this than the last time I read it. This time, the sleepwalker business interested me much more, while I was a bit impatient with Sal constantly fainting and being lugged from one location to another by the other characters. But I guess this time around I appreciated the side characters more, like Fishy, who believes he lives in a video game and that the apocalypse isn't really happening, but who is still trying to help out instead of looting or shooting things purely for fun. I also loved the dogs a whole lot more than I remembered.
40. In An Absent Dream, Seanan McGuire
I really love the concept of the Goblin Market and what Seanan McGuire has chosen to do with it. The connection to Christina Rossetti's poem of that name is a wonderful bonus to me, as I am writing my master's thesis about her and am always happy to see references to one of my favourite poems.
I really liked Lundy's journey in this book, and the way McGuire focuses more on her friendships and her internal development than on the grand adventures she experiences in the Goblin Market. We do not see her defeat the Wasp Queen, instead seeing her deal with the fallout from that, and we skip her transformation into a bird only to see the cost that comes from that. This book is, at its core, about consequences, and about the hidden costs of choices, even in a place as firm about fair value as the Goblin Market. I really liked this book, it's a great continuation of the series.
>41 BerlinBibliophile: I have that one on the shelves, Miriam. Long stretches of boredom followed by frenetic activity sounds like so many of the novels of that period!
Have a lovely weekend.
41. We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled, Wendy Pearlman
This book is great if you want to understand the human side of the Syrian revolution. It collects the voices of many Syrians, talking about their lives before, during, and after the revolution. They come from all sections of society and from all sorts of religious and political backgrounds. The book gives a very rounded picture, with the great triumphs, but also the negative aspects of the revolution spotlighted by people who actually lived through it.
The author, Wendy Pearlman, is more of an editor than an author in the traditional sense. She collected, translated and arranged the these eyewitness accounts, and placed them into context with each other, so that a sequence of different voices tells a story that is more than the sum of its parts. But she does not intervene as a narrator, instead letting the Syrian voices collected in the book do their own talking.
42. If We Were Villains, M.L. Rio
This is what I thought when I first read this book in 2017: This book simply blew me away. I started reading with incredibly high expectations, but they were met and surpassed by this exceptional book. It was so suspenseful at one point I had to take a break to emotionally recharge, but I simply had to know the ending, so I finished reading it that same day.
The author handles the characters and their complicated relationships masterfully, and all the crazy things that happen among them never feel forced or out of character.
I love how saturated this book is by Shakespeare, full of allusions and quotations and parallels to his works. As one character says, Shakespeare is like the eighth, unseen roommate of the seven central characters, always there, as if he'd just left the room. This is an amazing mystery regardless, but if you've studied Shakespeare you'll definitely get much more out of this book. You can practically feel how much the author loves Shakespeare right through the pages.
Both the Shakespeare nerd in me and the person who loves literary mysteries are wholly satisfied, loving this book without reservation.
This is what I added on my 2019 re-read: Even knowing the ending, the book is still amazing. This time around I focused more on the characters I had rather neglected on my first read, like Wren and Filippa. Although they appear less directly than James or Meredith do, they still have such an impact on the plot and on the character dynamics of the group.
The open ending is still great, and I fell like interpret it differently every time I read it, which is sort of the point. This time, I tended more towards hope.
43. Weißer Tod, Robert Galbraith
I enjoyed this book much more than the previous one in the series. There were no long chapters of the killer's misogynistic musings to wade through to get to the plot.
The plot itself was great, with plenty of twists and turns, and an ending which managed to surprise me but still made sense.
Honestly, the book is worth it just for the exquisitely awkward first chapter, which depicts the agony of awkwardness caused at Robin's wedding by the end of the last book perfectly. The new characters in this book were also great, and I hope Barclay continues to investigate with them in future books.
44. The Apothecary Rose, Candace Robb
I enjoyed this book. The setting is very interesting, and I liked the many characters and how they developed throughout the novel. The mystery to be solved was also good, though I wish the author hadn't revealed most of the facts in the prologue, leaving only the motive to be discovered by the reader. Nonetheless I'm looking forward to the other novels in the series.
45. The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She is a Hit in Hollywood, Paula Byrne
This is a really interesting book about Jane Asuten's connections to the theatre, both in her private life and in her juvenilia and novels. The context Byrne gives for the 18th-century stage is really helpful and really draws out the connections between, for example, styles of acting on the London and Bath stages and Austen's depiction of social "acting" in her novel. The analyses are very insightful and I learned a lot that I had never previously considered. I especially liked the section on Emma and its connections to the themes of social mobility and the acting that comes with it that was also explored in the plays Austen saw.
46. The City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty
Wow! I loved this book. The worldbuilding is spectacular, and it feels like such a lived-in world, full of as-yet unexplored corners that promise future adventures. I also liked the portrayal of a society in which there are no clearly good or evil groups, just many different end goals that are pursued more or less pragmatically and ruthlessly.
The characters are great as well. They have such different attitudes and worldviews, yet as a reader I love them all despite their diametrically opposed agendas. The ending of the book certainly promised more character development and conflict for the future, which I am looking forward to very much.
>9 BerlinBibliophile: Next week we are in Berlin, Miriam, I hope we can arrange to meet you.
We arrive Monday (May 6th) afternoon and leave Sunday (May 12th) morning. We stay in the H2 hotel at the Karl-Liebknechtstrasse. No exact plans yet, except for the afternoon of the 8th and the evening of 9th, when we go to the Komische Oper in the evening to see "Der Jahrmarkt von Sorotschinzi" by Mussorgski.
Hi! Thanks for messaging me again.
I'll be here all week, and have time every day except wednesday the 8th, so that works out well. Is there anything in particular you would like to do together while you're here?
47. The Lady Chapel, Candace Robb
I liked this book better than the first one, mostly because the solution to the mystery wasn't revealed in the prologue. It's full of tangled threads that only make sense at the very end, but there are still plenty of clues along the way for the reader to figure out small pieces of the puzzle.
The further character development was nice, although I wish they would just communicate openly, then most of their issues could be avoided. York is beginning to feel like more of a familiar setting, and the list of places in and around York the book takes place in makes it seem like a real, lived-in setting, beyond the maybe three locations the majority of the first book took place in.
>53 BerlinBibliophile: We want to visit some museums, for certain we will visit Hamburger Bahnhof.
Have you any suggestions?
We could meet for lunch or diner and do something together before or after.
Which day suits you best?
48. Club der Romantiker: oder Das Rätsel um Laureen Mills, Frank P. Meyer
I really enjoyed this mystery set in Oxford in the 1990s. What works well is that the story is told across two different times, the time before and after the murder in the 1990s and the time after the body is finally found in the 2010s. The difference between the times is emphasised by the different tenses and the different points of view the story is told through, though it took me a little while to get used to reading in the present tense.
The story itself is good, too. For most of the book, I thought I knew what the solution to the mystery was going to be, and was kept interested by wondering how and whether the police were going to find out. But then, it turned out to be something completely different and much more complicated. I appreciate being surprised by a book like this. The explanation made a lot of sense to me, although I didn't like that nobody actually gets punished or even publically accused of it. Still, overall the book was a good experience, full of interesting details about student life in Oxford in the 90s.
49. A Princess in Theory, Alyssa Cole
I enjoyed this book. The characters are great both separately and as a couple, and I liked the progression of their relationship and the way it proceeded first on her turf and then on his.
50. Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan
I really enjoyed this book as a start of a new series. The characters are great and I'm realy looking forward to seeing them become even better friends. Especially Samirah is great and I can't wait to see how she deals with her double life in the next book.
It's exciting to explore this world of Norse gods in a way that's different from the superhero treatment (as this book's characters point out often).
I also really appreciated that little cross-over nod to Annabeth. ;)
51. Space Opera, Catherynne M. Valente
This is a very weird book. It closely skirts the line between quirky and annoying, and sometimes it shoots right past that line. But mostly it sticks the landing. The ending was genuinely surprising, and I would have liked to see a little more of the aftermath.
It is also a love letter to the whole concept and reality of Eurovision, and the love for that silly contest shines through every page.
52. Shirley, Charlotte Brontë
All in all, I enjoyed this book. It is an interesting time to read about, and especially the beginning of the book is full of interesting bits about the Methodists and other reform churches, as well as tantalising glimpses of levellers and labour riots in the North of England.
What I found least interesting, sadly, were the principal relationships. I liked Caroline and Shirley's friendship a lot, and I really appreciated Charlotte Brontë's depiction of an entirely independent female character, one who takes care of her own business and is able to do what she likes and only what she likes. What I take issue with are the last ~80 pages of the book, in which the romantic relationships come to a head and Shirley must suddenly be "tamed". In the scene in which Louis Moore, her future husband, forces her to reveals her feelings to him, he says that "I scared her; that I could see: it was right; she must be scared to be won." (p. 512) Shirley can only marry, apparently, when she recognises someone who can curb and control her independent spirit and behaviour, which I had thought was the best part of her character. She is compared to a wild animal, without the human capacity to control herself, and she accepts this judgement of herself: "I am glad I know my keeper, and am used to him. Only his voice will I follow; only his hand shall manage me; only at his feet will I repose." (p. 514) I was disappointed that this book, up until this point full of female characters who organise their own lives and live according to their own ideals and standards, ends with Shirley made to give up management of her property and her own self.
53. The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders
This book is super weird and super great at the same time. Anders writes about a fascinating planet which is home to both humans and a fascinating other species. They are very alien and inhuman, but still so understandable as well. Every interaction between them and Sophie is a delight and I would have liked to read much more after the end of the book.
The human cultures which are shaped by the unique environment of the planet are fascinating too, and I fet like I got a clear enough picture of them to see myself walking down the city streets and experiencing the strange food and stranger customs.
The relationships the two point-of-view characters develop, both with each other and with the people who shape their lives most strongly, are fully realized and develop in interesting and unexpected directions.
I loved this book and hope for more.
54. The October Man, Ben Aaronovitch
I was slightly worried that I would miss Peter Grant as the narrator, but after a couple of pages I forgot about those worries and simply enjoyed getting to know this wonderful new cast of characters and locations (and genii locorum). I really liked Tobi as the new protagonist and was interested to see how differently magic apprenticeships go in Germany. Vanessa Sommer was my favourite new character and I was so excited by her arc in the book and the hints about her future. The mystery was good and I liked that it was set in an area I like very little about, viniculture.
I liked that the terminology for magic was genuinely different than in the English books, and not simply direct translations of the English terms. The magical history of Germany was also fascinating, if absolutely horrifying. There were so many hints at the historical developments of the magical bureaucracy both in the Nazi period and in the German separation that I would like to learn more about. English magical history is expanding so much in the main series that I would love to explore alternative German magical traditions as well.
Finally, the little shout-outs and nods to the characters and events of the main series were greatly appreciated and mostly really funny.
55. Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor, Rick Riordan
These books keep getting more and more enjoyable for me the more the main characters become friends and help each other outside of their questing. I loved the focus on Samirah's life and relationship with Amir, it's very cute. I also liked Alex as a contrasting character to Samirah, she's also a child of Loki and faces some of the same issues, but she's a very different person and deals with these challenges in a totally different way.
I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
56. American War, Omar El Akkad
This was a book I had to think a lot about, and that was a good thing. The bleak future it presents is both incredibly close to reality, and seems very far away from life at the moment. The difference between them lies in how much work we have to put in in future to mitigate that vision of the future planet.
I really liked Sarat's characterisation. She was shaped so strongly by the people around her and the terrible events she witnessed, but there was a core to her that stayed, and the little girl investigating how honey flows was still recognisably the woman who decided to put on the ultimate "farmer's suit".
57. Manus Chase and the Ship of the Dead, Rick Riordan
These keep getting better and better. I liked that this book focused a little more on the others from floor 19, who were mostly in the background before. It was great to get more backstory on them and also to see how they clash and mesh.
The further development of Sam and Alex was really great, too, and I'm super excited to read more about how Magnus's and Alex's project at the end of the book goes in future.
58. Frankissstein, Jeanette Winterson
I think I'll be thinking about this novel for quite a while yet. Winterson switches off between several different storylines, and they each inform and enhance each other's meanings. There is the story of Mary Shelley writing "Frankenstein", a contemporary story about artificial intelligence, sex robots, and gender, and many more. But the question the novel revolves around is what makes someone a person. Is it the body? The brain? The soul? What do those terms even mean, and can we actually define concepts like intelligence, life, and death? Winterson does not answer these questions definitively in this book, but she certainly gave me food for thought and made me consider them in a new light. I'm not sure what to feel about the book now, but I do know that I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it, because I wanted to keep reading more.
59. The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
I have a lot of complex feelings about this book. It is written beautifully, with lushly lyrical descriptions of the magical reality of these characters' lives. At the same time, the book is also full of brutal sexual violence, which I found disturbing to read.
The book also made me think: about the cyclical nature of history, about the neccessity of breaking the inheritance of violence and of healing, and about the nature of fate and memory. These themes are explored in depth throughout the book, using the three generations of Del Valles and Truebas as they try to thrive and then survive in decades of Chilean history.
60. The Nun's Tale, Candace Robb
I did like this book. I was occasionally a little annoyed at the lack of follow-through on the part of Lucie and Owen, but ultimately I still enjoyed reading this book. Now that most of the principal characters and relationships are established the author is able to focus more on the mysteries and how they affect these people than the basics, which I personally like.
61. The King's Bishop, Candace Robb
I thought this book was a lot weaker than the previous parts of the series. Owen seems to lose all his intelligence and experience in dealing with the possibility that his friend may be a murderer, and Ned seems to lose his brain entirely and to constantly make the stupidest possible choice, almost as if he were trying to make himself guilty. The resolution of the mystery is not particularly satisfying either, and the subplot of Thoresby and Alice Perrars is highly annoying.
I hope the series will get back up to par in the next installment.
62. Middlegame, Seanan McGuire
I have no idea how to describe this book, but I do know that I loved it and that I was spellbound through the last third and could not put it down. The construction of this book is masterful, and it is so, so well and engagingly written.
Roger and Dodger are great as protagonists, and the way McGuire develops their characterisation as they grow up and change reality works incredibly well. They do change depending on their timeline, but they also stay essentially the same. The same goes for their supporting cast. The timeline changes so many times throughout the book, but the reader still doesn't confused about it, even as the characters shift, forget, and experience "jamais vu".
The worldbuilding in this book is out of this world as well. It's horrifying and fascinating and at the same time so casual. Just another job, except the alchemists are cutting people's hands off.
I strongly recommend it!
63. The Blue Salt Road, Joanne M. Harris
This is a mercurial tale full of change and reversals and betrayals of all sorts. It is also beautifully illustrated. The descriptions of the North Sea and its inhabitants are so vivid and evocative that I wanted to jump into the book and fly with the seagulls and swim with the seals.
64. A Question of Blood, Ian Rankin
Another satisfying mystery from Rebus and Clarke. If only they would occasionally report criminals stalking or threatening them instead of feeling like they need to deal with it alone or with their fists! They are getting better about it, but slowly, so slowly.
The murder was interesting and the solution contained some twists I definitely didn't see coming, but which made total sense once I looked back on the rest of the book. There were three murders for the price of one in this book, with another sprinkling of crime on top. I certainly felt that I got my money's worth on that front!
65. Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam, Derek Landy
This book is a MESS. I used to love this series, but with this instalment it has gone off the rails completely. The characters are like parodies of themselves, exaggerated into grotesqueness. They are no longer people, and no longer likeable at all. The protagonist used to be a girl who was quick with a quip and who was okay with breaking the rules when neccessary. Now she is a non-stop smartass who uses her friends whenever they're useful to her and forgets about them otherwise, who thinks no laws apply to her, and who thoughtlessly kills people and offends others, secure in her belief that she is the strongest and therefore right.
The plot zigzags madly along, with no coherency and no satisfying conclusion, simply one improbable thing strung after the next. There are so many little sidequests that go nowhere, and I genuinely think the book would have been better if the author had been forced to cut 200 pages. The good guys and the bad guys are barely distinguishable anymore, but not because their motivations are morally complex or anything. It is simply that the good guys don't seem to care anymore that killing people is evil. They team up with the bad guys about six different times this book, and not because the situation is desperate and they are reluctantly forced to work together. No, they'll be fighting to the death but then the genocidal maniac's son is hurt, so they immediately drop everything, heal her up and teleport over to help him, only to then barely try to arrest them all. Why should I, the reader, care whether they stop Abyssinia's plan of mass-murder when they barely seem to dislike her for trying to start a genocidal war?
This series also used to have good fight scenes: no longer. The narrative will set up a cool fight and then cut to the end, entirely missing out the important bits. It got so bad that at several points I sincerely wondered whether I had somehow managed to skip a few chapters, but no. The power levels of the charcters are also all over the place. Valkyrie seems to be getting new powers at the drop of a hat, and by the end of the book I had no clue anymore who was meant to be a powerful sorceror and who wasn't, since it seems to depend only on the whim of the author.
I hate that I dislike this book. This series is very important to me. I've had great times at readings and fan events, and I've had many hours of happy reading with these characters. But I barely recognise my favourite characters anymore and this book has finally severed the emotional connection I used to have with them. I will try to forget the entire sequel series and try to remember why I used to like this series so much. What a shame.
66. Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, Lucinda Hawksley
Over all I liked this biography. It was certainly interesting to read about Lizzie Siddal's part of Pre-Raphaelite history, and to learn more about her own artistic career as well as her modelling. I just wish that the author had kept things a little more chronological and fleshed out some of the hints she gives about Lizzie's life, such as her late turn to religion. Still, an interesting read about a short and tragic but eventful life.
67. Black Hand - Jagd auf die erste Mafia New Yorks, Stephen Talty
A good book about an interesting topic. I wish the author had gone into a little more detail concerning the historical context of several events in the book, but this was still over all an enjoyable read about a period of history and a subject I don't know much about.
68. The Poison Thread, Laura Purcell
I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. The story is interesting and the possibly supernatural elements keep up suspense. This book is full of ambiguity: who is telling the truth? Can someone's own eyes and ears be trusted? What are the two protagonists' motives? Does an objective truth even exist? I greatly enjoyed wading into the murky depths of the story and following the characters through the twists and turns.
69. Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, Emma Campbell Webster
I had tremendous fun with this book. There are so many paths to take and stories to discover, and the points system brought out my competitive side, even though I was only playing against myself and the book. In one day, I made five attempts before I was finally satisfied, and wound up marrying Mr. Wickham (boo!), Colonel Brandon (acceptable) and Mr. Darcy (YES!), as well as murdering Mr. Eliot and being kidnapped by Fanny Price. I had a great time with this and will be revisiting it with Austen-loving friends as well.
70. A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley
I enjoyed reading about the British enjoyment of murder. This book is less about the murders themselves than about their reception in the public discourse and in art and merchandising. How reactions to murders changed over time was very interesting and it never fails to surprise and amuse me how money can be made off of even the most serious things, like puppets made of murderers and their victims and souvenirs sold at murder sites. The progression of reactions from the general public and from authors over time is very ably illustrated by Worsley, whose narrative style is full of enthusiasm for her subject.
71. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
This alternate history feels like a real world, and that really helps to make it a great book. The way Chabon drops in mentions of historical events that don't happen in our reality, sometimes with very little explanation, makes the world feel so much wider than the plot the reader happens to be following. This murder investigation in the District of Sitka is important to the people who are living it, and definitely very interesting to the reader, but I got the feeling that the internal alternate world of the book would go on without it, and to me that is a mark of a really good alternate history.
I also really liked the ending. For me, it struck the perfect balance between resolution of the central murder and open-ended possibility for both the characters and the future political climate.
>76 BerlinBibliophile: the British enjoyment of murder.
That made me smile, Miriam!
Have a lovely weekend.
>78 PaulCranswick: it's such a funny sentence, and yet I think the British do enjoy an interesting murder very much, and so do I! :)
72. Frühstück mit Kängurus, Bill Bryson
I had fun reading this after someone left it behind in my hotel room in Queensland. It was fun to see what Bryson had to say about the places I had just travelled through, and to notice concurrences and differences in opinion, and even to see what had changed since the publication of this book. We experienced Darwin very differently, for example. I agree with his general description of the town, but since his writing there has been a huge waterfront develpment which provided all the fun, cold drinks and good food I could want.
73. Middlemarch, George Eliot
This book is immensely long, and yet worth every page. Eliot goes into the characters and developments of so many people in this book, and manages to keep thinks moving forward in interesting directions throughout. The development she charts in the personalities and fortunes of such normal people is wonderful to follow, and she draws them with such goodwill and subtle humour towards them that it is impossible for me as the reader not to feel with them even as I am laughing at their foibles and all-too-human weaknesses. This is really a masterpiece of a novel.
74. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman
It took me a chapter or two to really get into this book, but afterwards I was hooked and finished the book on one plane journey. Gaiman's style is conversational, as though he is sitting around a campfire with the reader, telling stories to pass the long night. This worked very well for me and makes it easy to accept differences to other tellings of these myths I have read before. I especially liked Gaiman's dialogue, which was refreshingly funny and a great contrast from the otherwise historical-sounding prose.
75. Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Stephanie Barron
I was diverted by this detective story starring Jane Austen. It never got dull, though the characters were at times little more than caricatures. Still, the mystery worked well and some of the characters did show promise for the future, especially Jane herself.
However, in an "editor's note" in front of the book, the author lays out the conceit that the book is an edited version of a manuscript in Austen's own hand that she had found in America. This quite ruined it for me. Why not write a book on your own merits instead of presuming to imitate Jane Austen and be found wanting by your audience?
Update on 2nd read: I liked it much better this time around because I skipped the "editor's note in the beginning.
76. Jane and the Stillroom Maid, Stephanie Barron
This was the second time I read this mystery starring Jane Austen as a sleuth. Having totally forgotten the solution to the mystery, I enjoyed the book just as much as on my first read. This book is a quick read, but really fun and engaging, with plenty of suspense to keep my interest until the solution of the mystery.
>83 BerlinBibliophile: I hope you enjoyed your vacation, Miriam!
There are always many great books left to read.
77. Do you dream of Terra-Two? Temi Oh
I never knew where this book was taking me next, and then I was always happy with where it took me. The trajectory of the story was very different than I expected, but Temi Oh wrote such organic, living characters that I always believed that whatever smart or illogical or emotional choice they made, they made because of their life experience and the stress they were under and because of who they are. I like books with an ensemble cast like this, and it was always great to see the different characters' reactions to events. I definitely recommend it, even if I can't quite describe this book.
Ooo, I got that one at the ALA exhibit hall excursion this year. Looking forward to it!
78. Schiffbruch mit Tiger, Yann Martel
I really enjoyed the first three quarters of the book. After that, it got weirder and weirder and then had a real downer ending. I was sad about that, I had enjoyed the earlier parts of the book so much that I was really let down by the last hundred pages or so.
79. The Darkness, Ragnar Jónasson
The ending was shocking, a real surprise even to veteran crime novel readers. I guess that's a good thing. Even though it made me sad, it was also exciting to read something so different, and it left me wanting more.
The protagonist, Hulda, is wonderful, and I really enjoyed reading about her. There were so many aspects of her working life that were so relatable to me, even though our ages, nationalities, and jobs could not be more different. The mystery definitely kept me engaged and was suspenseful up until the very end, but what I liked most were the beautiful descriptions of the Icelandic landscape. Beautiful yet harsh, they reminded me so strongly of my holidays in Iceland and made me want to go back even more than I already did.
80. The Witches: Salem, 1692, Stacy Schiff
In this book, the author chronicles what happened in Massachusetts in 1692 without passing judgement. On the one hand, this is brilliant, since it means that she lays out events as they historically happened without much editorializing as to why they did, merely commenting on the sources and theit believability. On the other hand, it left me wanting a bit more from the book. What happened was so unbelievable that I could not really understand how it could have come about. Stacy Schiff does mention some of the most common theories and some common-sense explanations, but she does not go into detail and does not comment on the likelihood of this being an explanation for the witch-hunting fever that swept through the colony in that one year and led to so many accusations and executions. But it certainlet whetted my appetite, and I will go look for more on this topic.
I recommend it as a statement of the facts of the case, no matter how unbelievable they seem, but I wish Schiff had made more of an attempt to get at the underlying causes.
81. In the Shadow of Spindrift House, Mira Grant
Oh man, what a tense read. I knew this was horror going in, and sort of what kind of horror to expect, but this book still kept me up way past my bedtime, first to finish it and then to calm down enough to sleep! It's such a short book, but Grant does a phenomenal job of defining the characters early and and making the reader care deeply for their futures and survival. I would love to read about all the shenanigans the Answer Squad got up to in their teens, and I'm also super interested in what happens to Harley after this book. I guess that's the mark of a great book, it satisfies the reader's expectations of the book but still leaves them wanting more.
82. Strafe, Ferdinand von Schirach
Some of these stories were interesting to read, others were a bit boring, as the characters are almost never fleshed out or given any characteristics outside of those relevant to the case, so that they seem like plot devices rather than people.
83. Mansfield Revisited, Joan Aiken
This book has very little to do with Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, but it is a very fun book on its own. Fanny and Edward are dispatched overseas immediately at the start of the book, and most of the returning characters (except Lady Bertram) have very little to do with their former characterisation. Still, I enjoyed reading about their exploits as they were. The ending was a little quick for my taste, but throughout most of the book there is slower development of the characters, mostly through conversations, which I liked. It was definitely interesting to read some older fanfiction and compare it to today's offerings.
84. The Novel Habits of Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith
It was okay. But sadly, no more than that. I expected better of a book by Alexander McCall Smith, but I had to drag myself across the finish line with this one. The characters are nice enough, but there's not any real conflict to keep one interested, nor did I get invested enough in the characters and their relationships to enjoy their quiet routine. The plot doesn't go anywhere, and takes a detour through a lot of rambling. It's meant to be Isabel's deep philosophical musings, but most of the time it was trite non-sequiturs instead.
85. The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side, Agatha Christie
On a re-read, there were a few things I was wondering about, like why the two blackmailers were killed when they didn't even know the right person to blackmail, and why one of them was paid hush money, considering he didn't know who to blackmail...
Still, an enjoyable mystery over all, even if I wish there had been more Miss Marple in it.
86. Teufelskrone, Rebecca Gablé
While this is not my favourite in the series, it's still a very enjoyable read. The time period this is set in is super interesting, and Gablé does a great job exploring both the light and dark sides of King Richard and King John without reducing either to the caricatures they are often portrayed as. I really liked Beatriz, and it was interesting to see life at court from the inside. At the same time, the two parallel conflicts between the pairs of brothers kept things interesting throughout the book and informed each other in fascinating ways. Guillaume's storyline did not go where I expected it to, and that was a joy to read.
87. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold
I really enjoyed the way this book centers women's lives and experiences rather than their deaths at the hands of a man. There was so much more to them than their deaths, and Rubenhold gives that the importance it deserves. It was fascinating to read about working-class Victorian women for once, and not about the upper middle classes or the aristocracy. It's amazing how many important historical events these women's lives touched on, from the Golden Jubilee to the Peabody Worthies. Seeing how normal, working people's lives were impacted by these events was interesting.
Beyond that, these are very human stories. With every one, I was rooting for the women to make a success of their lives, to remain at the heights that they had reached, and every time Rubenhold was able to make me believe, at least a little, that this time there would be a good ending, and every time the result were homelessness and death instead. It takes a good author to keep this sort of story, where the ending is the most famous part, suspenseful and engaging, and Rubenhold really succeeded.
88. Night and Silence, Seanan McGuire
How are all of these so good? Seanan McGuire somehow always manages to come up with another engaging and suspenseful mystery, even after 12 books in her wonderful world. The characters have developed so much since their debuts, and they continue to grow and change so much, it is a joy to follow them through their journey. In this book, I especially appreciated and felt for Tybalt, and I was so happy when he reappeared halfway through the book. The ending, despite being very long and drawn-out over different places and dealing with many different people, was so interesting and tense that I couldn't put the book down.
I also really, really liked the novella appended to my copy, "Suffer a Sea-Change". I love all things Luidaeg, and it's great to see her be a little terrifying again now that Toby is getting so familiar with her (which is lovely, don't get me wrong, but it's nice to see the Luidaeg be a little vindictive once again).
89. Chimera, Mira Grant
I thought the plot circled back to the same factions and places a little too often, but other than that I really liked this book as a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I love how Sal has developed throughout the series, and especially in the latter half of this book. It's been wonderful to see her come into her own and actually stand up for herself and for her own ideas. Also, the dogs are okay, so everything's good.
90. The Unkindest Tide, Seanan McGuire
I could not love this book more. It is absolutely perfect for me. It basically ticks all my boxes. All my favourite characters, together in a pirate-themed adventure? Yes, please!
But seriously, this book has a great plot with an incledibly satisfying conclusion several books in the making, and the character interaction is delightful. There are also further character developments towards moving on after trauma and dealing with it by communicating and trusting those around you, which I loved and which would not have been possible for these people when they started their journeys ten years ago.
I just love Toby, and the Luidaeg, and Tybalt, and Quentin so, so much. It's like meeting my friends in each new book, and I'm so happy to see them doing well.
91. Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
I had very different experiences with the stories in this book. Many of them were absolutely wonderful and made me think more about life. "Seventy-Two Letters" was fascinating to me as someone who studies Victorian literature and culture, and "Tower of Babylon" made me reexamine and expand my defnition of science fiction and how I relate to fiction based on religion.
"Liking What You See: A Documentary" didn't work for me at all, but that's a small blip in an otherwise very interesting and enjoyable collection.
92. Deutschland: Erinnerungen einer Nation, Neil MacGregor
This is a great book for the lay reader. It is very accessible and engaging to read, and the many, many objects it is built around make it easy to focus on the chapter's topic and its implications throughout German history. And MacGregor does a great job finding a "German" history to tell, despite the complex and fractured history of the area. He deals with everything from the proliferation of German sausages to the political tangles of 1888, the year of three German emperors. I recommend this book to anyone looking to learn a little more about German history and the way communal memories are formed and shaped.
93. Blood & Sugar, Laura Shepherd-Robinson
Honestly, it was okay, no more. It's an interesting case, but the solution doesn't make that much sense and the ending is very rushed and confused. That was due to the character's fever, but the reader should still be able to figure out the murderer's motive without thinking about it for half an hour and reading the confession two more time. The plot also relies on someone being treated so badly that they become an unrepentant torturer and enjoy killing. I always like my murders to have a little more motive than that. It also seems sketchy to me to have the tortures and murders of black men and abolitionists in this book all be carried out by a black man, and much, much more brutally than the murders committed by white people. The author also seems to use the n-word a lot more often than seems warranted even in a historical novel set at a time in which it was in common use. To conclude, actually, I wouldn't even say this book was okay. An interesting premise, terrible execution.
>100 BerlinBibliophile: That book sounds good, library wishlisted.
>102 FAMeulstee: It was really great, I hope you enjoy it too!
94. Truly Devious, Maureen Johnson
I really enjoyed this book! The characters were great and I can't wait to explore them further in the sequel. The mystery is super interesting and I did NOT see that explanation coming. There's going to be so many exciting ramifications in the next book.
The setting worked super well for the book and the Vermont scenery and the old architecture of the campus really added to the atmosphere of isolation and creeping dread.
95. The Vanishing Stair, Maureen Johnson
This book is unfairly good. I care so much about these characters, and the cliffhanger left me running through the house, shouting to my flatmate about my reaction to that ending, with lots of jittery energy to work off after the tension and suspense of the last 80 pages or so.
It was great to return to Ellingham, and the mystery being solved is never the one I expect, and I like it that way. I love Stevie, and Jeanelle, and Nate, and David, and I hope I don't have to wait for too long before I can read about their further adventures. I would buy the next book tomorrow if only I could.
96. Standing in Another Man's Grave, Ian Rankin
I really enjoyed this one. The way Rebus has to deal with being a civillian while still involved in a police investigation was a really nice new angle on his approach to solving the case, and I really liked the new dynamic this gave his friendship with Siobhan. The mystery itself was also very interesting and I did NOT see the solution coming, in a really good way. It's nice to be surprised and then to think oooh, I could have seen this coming maybe.
The way they dealt with the murderer in the end ... I was less of a fan of. I wish they'd found a way to stay above board, but I guess it's not a Rebus book if he doesn't so some extremely shady stuff at some point. Even so, this felt worse than it usually does in the books. I guess being a civillian not only gives Rebus less official power, it also gives him even less of a conscience about descending into criminality to get a result. It will be interesting to see how this will be dealt with in the next book.
97. My lady Jane, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
What the hell even is this book. It was recommended to me as a revisionist history in which Jane Grey survives her 9 days as queen of England. I was not expecting there to also be poisonings and shapeshifters and Shakespeare conspiracies. The wackiness levels of this book are off the charts, and not always in a good way. The characters keep playing out the same conflicts over and over, the the dialogue is a strange mix of archaic and fake modern slang, and the plot meanders around and then barely comes to a climax. The narrator keeps interjecting their commentary into the story in a way that isn't kooky and cute, it's annoying.
And yet, the book is often entertaining, especially at the beginning, in its balls to the wall weirdness.
98. Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder
I loved reading about Partners in Health, I loved all the information about their history and work and its implications for global health policy. I just did not like Kidder's narration at all. He intruded into the narrative at strange points without it serving to illuminate Paul Farmer's views any further by writing down their little fights (and Kidder's immediate submission, without getting answers to his legitimate questions). Kidder also wrote about the women in PIH and in Cange in a sexist, dismissive way, focusing always on their looks and their sexual relationships with men rather than their work. This was especially strange in regards to Ophelia Dahl, one of the founders of PIH, about whom Kidder includes a weird fantasy of her "consummating" her relationship with Paul Farmer, which is far, far from the most interesting thing about her. I loved the content, I just wish I had not been distracted from it so often by annoyance at the author.
99. The Big Book of Female Detectives, ed. Otto Penzler
I mostly really enjoyed this collection of stories. The stories featured are so different, the styles diverge so much, and the progression of the genre through time is charted so interestingly, that it never got boring despite containing over a thousand pages of detective stories.
>108 BerlinBibliophile: Sounds like it is one of the better anthologies.
100. Unnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers
Overall I really liked this mystery and these characters. It was perhaps a little too long for my tastes, but the solution was satisfying even as it was frustrating to read about all the miscommunications among the detectives. I hope we see more of Parker in future.
>109 thornton37814: yeah, I quite enjoyed it. Obviously there were a couple of duds in there, but that's to be expected when there's over 1100 pages of short stories in a book. I found it funny that everyone got short stories, but they printed a whole Agatha Christie novel in there! :D
101. Umwege, Hermann Hesse
I liked this book of tales. They are told in a calm, unhurried way even as the protagonists experience their little and large crises. I liked the focus on the unneccessary importance placed on "Standesdünkel", sense of your own place and importance in society, by the bougeoisie and on the joy to be found in doing what one enjoys rather than what one is supposed to do.
102. Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, Stephen Greenblatt
I enjoyed this examination of the way Shakespeare writes about Tyranny a great deal, I just wish it had been longer and explored the topic in a little more depth. Greenblatt often compared the issues Shakespeare was examining to contemporary politics, and I wish he had gone beyond the relatively oblique references and really analysed the parallels. Nevertheless, the analysis of the actual plays is excellent and I felt like I learned something from this book.
103. The Romanovs: 1613-1918, Simon Sebag Montefiore
This book is obviously very long and complicated, but it never gets boring. The author kept me interested throughout and I feel like I learned a whole lot. It was fascinating to see the historical events that I've always seen portrayed from my country's perspective from the outside, and to gain an understanding of a history and politics I haven't really thought deeply about before.
While there is a lot of strictly business, the author aso quotes extensively from the private correspondence of the tsars, their families and their courtiers, and that can get hilarious. One tsar talks about being excited for *bingerle* with his mistress in the same letter in which he discusses the state of the Crimean War.
104. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee
I love the characters in this, though I kept screaming at them in my head to hurry up and develop some emotional intelligence. The mutual pining was so frustrating, and yet so satisfying when it finally came to fruition. I cannot wait to read more About Felicity and the "pirates".
105. Lord Peter views the body, Dorothy L. Sayers
What a lovely connection of stories, full of humour and mysteries. All the stories are very well told and focus only on the important bits: the character interactions and the solution of the mysteries. One if my favourites was the one featuring Gherkins, Lord Peter Wimsey's nephew.
106. Rebus: Long Shadows, Ian Rankin and Rona Munro
This play diverges slightly from the universe the Rebus novels are set in. It's still recognisably Rebus though, facing off against Cafferty and his own tendency to break the rules. Siobhan Clarke gets caught in the crossfire, as she usually does. Her role was a little too small and passive for my taste in this story existing more as a chess piece to be pushed around by Rebus and Cafferty than as an independent person with considerable will and investigative powers of her own, as she does in the books.
Nevertheless the mystery is enjoyable enough.
107. The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant's Tomb, Rick Riordan
Man, these kids cannot catch a break. I loved this book, it's such a fun blend of humour and high stakes, personal development and teenage embarassments, awe-inspiring magic and silliness, just what I expect from Rick Riordan. His is a body of work where, after more than 20 books, I don't feel like the premise is getting tired or the books are getting annoying. I'm looking forward to the next book, and am planning a Percy Jackson re-read.
108. Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L Sayers
Definitely a good mystery, I just think it could have benefitted from being shortened by about 15%. There are certain lengths in the middle and in the trial before it comes to the new information. Still, the characters are great as always and it was nice to see Lord Peter not doing incredibly well for once, being stumped for most of the book before it finally comes to him.
109. Percy Jackson: Diebe im Olymp, Rick Riordan
Every time I start this series again I'm pleasantly surprised at how good it already starts out. The characters are great, they actually change and grow even within this first book, and the plot twist is still quite good even knowing it's coming.
What I particularly noticed on this re-read was Sally Jackson's amazingness and strength. She really is the best, and now as an adult I'm more able to appreciate the terrible situation she found herself in and the lengths she was willing to go to in order to protect Percy.
110. Percy Jackson: Im Bann des Zyklopen, Rick Riordan
Yup, still great. I especially loved how Percy and the gang interact with Clarisse throughout the novel - the merciless teasing and competitiveness, but also the reluctant teamwork and the genuinely surprising decision Percy makes at the end. It would be so easy to make Clarisse just a mean bully, but even while they don't like each other Percy always acknowledges that Clarisse is also incredibly brave, a great fighter and a great leader. It's nice to be able to look more at the minor relationships in these books, having obsessed enough about Percy and Annabeth as a teenager already. ;)
111. Percy Jackson: Der Fluch des Titanen, Rick Riordan
It's nice to see the world broaden so much in this book. The hunters of Artemis, the Titans, more Gods, more Halfbloods. I missed Annabeth, of course, but there were so many nice moments that show how important she is to the other kids, like the scene at the Hoover Dam where Percy, Grover and Thalia start rattling off architectural facts about it because Annabeth has talked about it so much. It develops Annebeth's passions and aspirations in a book she doesn't appear that much in, and it shows that her friends really listen to her and remember what she tells them, even if they usually complain when she starts talking about architecture. A good sign for the future.
112. Percy Jackson: Schlacht um das Labyrinth, Rick Riordan
Time passes quickly when you're a hormonal teen, and even more quickly if you're also locked into a confusing labyrinth where everything goes badly, especially in the romantic department... Still a fun book, and I can appreciate it a little more now that I know what's going to happen and I'm not distracted by my shipper goggles.
I liked the Nico subplot a lot more this time around. The poor kid has been dealt a terrible hand, and he manages to work on himself and get better and more open despite only being 10.
113. Percy Jackson: Die letzte Göttin, Rick Riordan
So, the final book... for now. It is such a fitting conclusion and brings together the threads from the previous books beautifully. It's a wonder that the characters still have time to develop despite the break-neck pace of the plot, but they do. Especially Silena and Clarisse were tragically wonderful. But even characters fighting for Kronos get treated seriously and aren't just an evil mass. Ethan Nakamura seriously influences the path forwards for both the Gods and their children, and I think it's one of Percy's best qualities that he's able to listen to his enemies and actually take in their point and admit when they're right.
Of course I'm going to keep reading, and there will be more tragedy and heroics, but it's nice that there is such a moment of peace and domesticity at the end of this book, that the characters are able to just rest and be happy, even if it's just for a little while.
Well, finished one Percy Jackson series, on to the next…
114. The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan
It's a ballsy move to start a new series featuring your previous protagonist and not even have him appear in the first book, but it works. I really like new characters Piper and Leo (it's taking me longer to start liking Jason) and it's interesting to see them interact with the people we readers have loved for five books now from an outsider's perspective: The camp, Annabeth, Thalia, and so many more. The changes to the setting since the last book are very present, and it's great to see the effects Percy's big wish from the gods has had.
115. The Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune, Rick Riordan
I love that Percy's back. Jason was just always a bit too bland as a protagonst for my taste, and Percy's snark and great friendship with Hazel and Frank is much appreciated. It was also nice to see a different kind of camp life, if only for a little while. I'm so excited for all the demigods to finally be reunited and go questing *together*.
Also, as a horse girl, Arion is just the best.
116. The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan
I love that Annabeth is finally the focus of her own quest. I wish it had taken up more chapters, but I'm super happy about whatever I can get. I love that Annabeth's super power is not strength or swordfighting (though she's absolutely a great knife fighter) but brains, and that this finally comes into play. She's not bashing Arachne over the head, she figures out her weaknesses and takes her down that way. Obviously the ending is tragic, but hey, Annabeth and Percy are together and with her brains and his watery brawn they can take on pretty much anything.
117. The Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades, Rick Riordan
Percy's hamartia finally comes into play, and Riordan really shows how what would usually be a strength can absolutely be a weakness if it is taken too far, like Percy's absolute loyalty to his friends. He would have died if it hadn't been for Annabeth, and that would have been very heroic, but the quest to defeat Gaia would have failed right then and there.
Also, poor Nico. He just can never catch a break. I am grateful that Jason reacted as relatively well as he did, even if Jason is otherwise a boring non-presence in this book. I loved getting to see Piper and Hazel take more of the spotlight since Annabeth and Percy weren't with the rest of the gang.
118. The Heroes of Olympus: The Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan
I'm always a bit sad when I finish this book, both because the story is over and because the ending was not as good as I was expecting. The (two) final battles with barely any description and little if any involvement from my favourite character are disappointing after the rest of the book worked quite well for me. I liked the way Riordan kept shaking up the combination of people who would go on little quests together, to allow more cohesion and more genuine relationships between the whole crew of the Argo II to form. I also really liked Nico and Reyna's bits of the story, it's nice to follow the secondary characters for once, and see the adventures they go through to make the heroics of the main seven demigods possible. I just wish this book had an ending that reflected that better.
119. Love looks pretty on you, Lang Leav
I mostly really enjoyed this book, I just think it could have stood to be a little shorter. I liked the poetry style and the themes, but the prose got a little repetitive after a while. My favourite poems in the book (at least at the moment) are I Should Have Left You Then, Her Crown, and Elements. I appreciate the simple style and lovely imagery in them, and Her Crown feels so appropriate to my life right now.
120. Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
Well the ending is ... a lot. But making me feel lots of feelings is the mark of a good book in my opinion, and Gideon the Ninth certainly accomplished that. I loved Gideon and the casual way she explored this mysterious world, and I really loved her off-beat narration style. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
121. Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
This was a fun quick read. I liked Rachel as the protagonist, and especially her friendship with Peik Lin. I guess Nick had to be a bit of a pill to get the plot moving, but I still wish we had seen more of his and Rachel's relationship before everything went off the rails, since this way I don't really see why she should stay with this thoughtless man who didn't even think to prepare her in the slightest for meeting his family, despite many of his friends telling him it was important to do so.
122. The Illustrated Police News, Linda Stratmann
This is a beautifully designed and executed book and would work great as a present for a reader interested in Victorian crime and journalism. As someone who has done a lot of research on that time, I would have liked some longer assessments of the illustrations and accompanying stories, of their impact on society, and also on how they reflect society's changing views through the over 70 years of the Illustrated Police News's history. It's a fascinating source and deserves a more in-depth study. I still enjoyed reading the book as is though.
123. The Summer Book, Tove Jansson
I really loved this series of vignettes. They are loosely interconnected, taking place in one summer or all summers. The point of view moves fluidly back and forth between Sophia and her Grandmother as they have adventures on the island where they are spending the summer, but the true protagonist is the island itself, to whom both of them are merely part of a fleeting human presence, here for the summer and then gone again. One of my favourite stories in this book was Sophia's Storm, which showcases Jansson's wonderfully real and evocative descriptions of the beauty and force of nature as well as the lovely if contentious relationship between Sophia and the Grandmother.
124. Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson
This book produces so much effect with so few words. Woodson's language is economical, but her characters are so alive that it seems like they could leap straight off the page and go back to their lives outside the book. I also like generational family stories, and this book is that while also being a non-linear jump through time and the lives of its characters, back and forth to illustrate their characters and their relationships.
125. Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo
This book took a while to get going, but once it did it was a real ride. I really liked the world of magic and secret societies and privilege Bardugo explored here, and I'd like to read more about protagonist Alex. The lack of punishment at the end was horrible, but I guess that was the point... The kind of institutionalised privilege the secret magical societies possess, as well as literally holding the purse strings of its own watchdogs, lets you get away with anything. Depressing but true.
I hope there'll be another book, and that we'll see more of Dawes as well. I loved her slowly growing friendship with Alex, and I really relate to her thesis woes.
126. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
I love this book, and Nancy means so much to me as an asexual protagonist. But beyond that, I love the idea of the stranded children coming together in this school to discuss their adventures and learn to deal with the real world again. The murder mystery is also an interesting one, and the motivation ties so beautifully to the foundations of the school. Every re-read is a joy.
127. Eine Geschichte Deutschlands in 100 Bauwerken, Marion Bayer
I've been trying to read more about German history and this was a good way to do it. It's broken down in little, easier-to-remember chunks, and anchored on pictures of important buildings that played a role in the event. For my layman's taste there was a little too much architectural description in this book, I don't really care about the detailing on the corbels in the interior if the picture you're showing me is an outside aerial shot and the historical events don't feature the corbels at all. Instead I wish there had been a little more detail and context to the history related instead.
128. Scythe, Neal Shusterman
I liked this book, but felt that it was a little unbalanced. Time passes in fits and spurts, and the beginning read so much slower while the ending was a little too rushed and glossed over important details. The concept of this world was fascinating though, and I liked the characters. I might read more of this series.
>131 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul! Hope you have a good week.
129. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
I have very much enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. The world Diana Wynne Jones takes the reader to is wonderful, and her matter-of-fact descriptions of magic as just another fact of life, and of Sophie's totally reasonable reactions to the to her very real conventions of fairy tales is great and makes the world feel that much more real. I also liked Calcifer very much, and Michael with his awkward sweetness and desire to help. Howl is such a dramatic character, it's great. And to then learn about his background makes it that much more delicious and logical. I will definitely be checking out the sequels to this fun magical romp.
130. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
It had been a while since I last read this book and it has even more non-sense than I remembered, which is a good thing. I found the ending a bit too abrupt, but other than that I enjoyed my re-read.
131. Red White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
I was a bit disappointed in this. I guess it was a problem of such huge potential and then not enough follow-through. The ideas were nice, but not actually written that well. I guess queer quotes from history are not an adequate substitute for an actual depth of connection between the two leads. I had fun reading it, but it always left me wanting more.
132. This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, Esther Earl
I knew bits of this life story, but not all of it. I liked the way this book was put together, with a mixture of Esther's own writing and that of outside sources like her doctors and her friends. It's hard to know what to say about this book. It was very moving.
133. Laughter at the Academy, Seanan McGuire
What a weird, wonderful collection! I really enjoyed almost all the stories in this book, and loved a few of them very much. All of them are recognisably Seanan McGuire stories, but they don't get repetitive. She has her themes, but they are explored in such very creative, strongly differing ways that I never felt bored for a second while reading this book. Here's hoping for many more!
134. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy L Sayers
Another fun one. I liked how it just keeps ramping up, first maybe confusion, then fraud, then MURDER!
>137 PaulCranswick: Thank you so much, Paul! I hope you had a lovely restful holiday, and that you will have an even better year 2020!
135. Ach, die Poesie im Leben ... Ottilie Wildermuths Briefwechsel mit ihrem Sohn Hermann, Rosemarie Wildermuth
I really enjoyed reading this collection of letters. It is perfectly ordinary correspondance, between a mother and her son, who is away first at seminary boarding school, then at university. The letters convey such a strong sense of their daily lives, their relationships, their trials and joys. It's wonderful to read such a testament to their times. Life in Tübingen and Schwaben in particular, and Germany in general in the 19th century comes to life so vividly in these letters. Both are gifted writers and it's easy to feel present in their lives. Everything from the philosophical and scientific debates of the day, financial troubles, religion, the institution of marriage, crime and punishment, politics, to personal family history is discussed here, and the letters are a wonderful window into a time now long gone.
136. To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers
I enjoyed this book, I only wish it had been longer. It makes its points eloquently, and it has the space for that, but I would have wished for some more leisurely explorations, both of the characters and of the planets they visit.
137. Persuasion, Jane Austen
Yes, the second time I read this book this year. But there's always so much more to discover!
This time around I particularly noticed Anne's silence in the book. She barely has any direct speech, it's always indirect, like "she endeavoured to give a gentle hint about..." or something like it. Nobody actively listens when Anne speaks, not even the reader gets to do that. The disconnect between the reader's view of Anne's rich inner life and her very sparse direct speech is striking. She has so much to say and offer, but nobody listens to her, not even friends like Lady Russell. Only Wentworth and, to a smaller extent, his naval acquaintance get the benefit of Anne's direct speech and actively listen to her, even when it would be easier not to. Anne spends her time on the margins of rooms and conversations, and that is what makes it so special when Wentworth gives her his full, undivided attention at the end of the book, and allows her the space to actually talk directly and express herself to someone who cares what she has to say.
Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.