lizzardgirl: (books)
Okay, let's pretend it's 6 weeks earlier, right? I totally wasn't lazy in updating my book list AT ALL.

79: The Royal Mess, by Mary Janice Davidson

It started getting really repetitive. And so much insta-love from constant boning. It was a neat idea, but it's clear it wasn't going to go anywhere new.

80: The Green Road, by Anne Enright

Uhm. Difficult to say. I liked it, but I couldn't love it. It's certainly a good book, might even be a great one, but it just didn't speak to me. I couldn't have cared less about anything in it. Still, for all that, I don't regret reading it. For those interested, it's a book taking apart a family in 1980s up to contemporary Ireland. It's well done. It's just not a voice resonating with me.

81: High Rising, by Angela Thirkell

My brother lent me this, it's another of his obscure literature finds. It was a very fun, light-hearted book, didn't take itself too seriously. Nice little romp in the 1930s English countryside.

82: To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis

I gave myself this book as a Christmas present and OMG loved it SO SO MUCH!!!! Why didn't y'all tell me sooner I had to read this one?

So, all in all, 82 books in 2015. Certainly not my highest number, but then again, it took me a whole bloody month to read that French book alone ... and I'm certainly happy with most of the books I read that year, so there's that :)
lizzardgirl: (books)
70: Blue Monday, by Nicci French

It was an ok crime novel. I thought it got a bit weird towards the ending, but okay. It was fun reading about the shrink's daily life. I kept imagining my own shrink.

71: Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovich

I really loved that one. It started a bit slow but I really liked how it went then. I wish though we'd learnt more about the over-arching mystery of the series, it wasn't really all that present in this one. When's the next one out?

72: The Bride Wore Size 12, by Meg Cabot

I love this series. It's pure brain candy. But it kept irking me that I felt I hadn't read the one previous to this and was missing out on things.

73: Bath Tangle, by Georgette Heyer

The last one in my mini-Heyer re-read and I still liked it tho of course no Regency Buck :)

74: Size 12 and Ready to Rock, by Meg Cabot

So I got this because I thought I hadn't read it, but then half-way through I realised I *had* read it and just forgotten half the stuff and, okay, that was all very irritating but not really the series' fault.

75: The Royal Treatment, by Mary Janice Davidson

Objectively, this series isn't really all that. But it's amusing and funny and fast-paced to read. It's a bit like The Royals (worst TV series ever) but intentionally funny and non-sensical. But the plotting could do with some help and the constant humping (sometimes graphic) gets a bit annoying.

76: Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Apparently this book has been hyped a lot? A colleague of mine was raving about it. I raced through it and enjoyed reading it but in the end realised I didn't really like it. Some things were neat, but I hated the overall resolution and found I couldn't like the male lead. It gets even more complicated because the plot hangs on an issue Assisted Suicide and I have complicated and partly conflicting opinions about said issue and I felt that this book partly tried to proselytise me very unsubtly. I can see why this book got hyped, but I don't like it and Will Traynor is an arse.

77: The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean, by David Abulafia

This was for a uni course, partly, but I liked the idea so much I got the whole book and read it and I can really only give it thumbs up! Abulafia sometimes is veering on the edge of too-snarky-for-a-historian, but it's a very amusing read and he has a really unique perspective on historical connections and presentation and I learned a lot.

78: The Royal Pain, by Mary Janice Davidson

See above for #75. Same opinion still holds.

Books 62-69

Nov. 2nd, 2015 11:54 am
lizzardgirl: (books)
62: The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

Okay, I'll admit I picked this mainly because it was one quid at Oxfam. I expected a pretty standard vampire novel, but I really liked this one much more than I thought I would. It's very well plotted and right up until the ending, very nicely paced (the ending felt a little bit rushed though) and has a couple of very interesting twists that kept it from being standard. I really enjoyed reading it. My only complaints would be that the ending is that little bit rushed, and that it left a few too many lose ends. I don't mind not everything being tied up neatly, but with one or two things I did wonder why they had been brought up at all if they were never going to be resolved. Still, thumbs up.

63: Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer

Got this from Caro and I really liked it. Surprisingly, I didn't catch on to the endgame until quite late in the book, and even then I was hoping for it rather than expecting it to happen.

64: Secret Place, by Tana French

I really like her mystery novels but they seem to get gloomier and gloomier all the time. This one was really good but such a depressing ending!

65: Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer

Okay, so Cotillion brought with it an urge to reread some favourite Heyers and of course this one tops the list. Objectively, I know that the hero is a total creep, but I can't help it, I put on my rose-tinted glasses all the time and just love this novel to bits. It's my guilty pleasure.

66: Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson

Shem's description of this sounded just like my cup of tea and when she was gushing so much about it I knew I had to get it too, and luckily the library had it. I wasn't disappointed. Like Shem, I found the beginning a bit slow to get into, but then it really took off and it was awesome. It's not exactly time-travel, but it touches similar questions as good time-travel novels do and on top of that one of my other favourite topics, alternate universes caused by tiny changes. I loved it!

67: Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith

As I said to my brother, I really really liked this one, but I liked Silkworm - the second in the series - even better. Also, I think JKR really enjoys diving into the gruesome and gory that she couldn't put into her at least nominally children's books. So, fair warning about that. This book is really gory and amputated limbs feature. I never had the feeling though that it was for shock value. It's just a very gruesome story. Also, in true JKR manner, she left it on a bit of a cliff-hanger - not about the mystery, but the personal story of the main characters (which was really nicely developed) - GRRRR!

68: Venetia, by Georgette Heyer

Something to calm my nerves after the JKR ;) When we were talking about Heyers during the DU, Julie said this was her favourite and talked about why and since it's been years since I read this I wanted to re-read with Julie's analysis in mind and she's right. Venetia really is a total kick-ass heroine and her and Damerel's relationship is awesomely honest. The only reason why this isn't my favourite Heyer is that it isn't Regency Buck because my brain is weird.

69: The Job, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I've grown a bit tired of her Stephanie Plums but I do like this new(ish) series and this one wasn't a disappointment. Pure escapist fast-paced action, but nicely done.
lizzardgirl: (books)
57: Dr Johnson's London, by Liza Picard

Had borrowed this from Caro last year so really needed to finish it and it didn't disappoint. Very quirky look at particular bits of 18th century London with lots of interesting tidbits.

58: Blackout, by Connie Willis
59: All Clear, by Connie Willis

Can I even say anything new about those, other than that I loved them? I don't think I could come up with anything other than gushing about everything. Like so: OMG COLIN!!!!!

60: Poseidon's Gold, by Lindsey Davis

Managed to find this one in the really, really odd second-hand bookshop in Brighton with the bombsite cellar. Because I have a weak spot for Falco and Helena and am slowly building up my collection of them, although I'd previously read this from the library. Still very nice though. I think they definitely get better too if you read them in order and really see their relationship grow.

61: WARP: The Hangman's Revolution, by Eoin Colfer

This was quick and fun and all that - it's just that any time travel book read after Connie Willis will have very large footsteps to follow in ...

Book 56

Aug. 12th, 2015 11:37 am
lizzardgirl: (books)
56: The Collector, by Nora Roberts

I wanted something fast and fluffy after the turmoils of Doomsday, so I went for this. I didn't like it very much in the beginning. It felt a little too stilted for me, too formulaic. But once the two protagonists got to meet each other, it got much better. I especially liked that it neither went the 'You're hot, I'm hot, let's boink for insta-relationship and the magic sex will sort everything out!' nor 'oh woes artificial obstacles keep keeping us apart oh the angst' route of relationship development, but instead had them navigate their relationship and gasp! talk about things and settle issues and find compromises. What a novelty notion! Plus there was a neat little mystery in the background.
lizzardgirl: (books)
52: The King's Curse, by Philippa Gregory

Yeah, I know. I said I'd stay away from these after the disappointment of the Elizabeth of York one, what with Incest!Richard and all the incoherent characterisations. However, this one I liked *much* better. It was a very fascinating analysis of the character of Henry VIII and the slippery slope towards his madness as well as a very intriguing view of Katharine of Aragon. It's not necessarily historically sound, there is a lot of speculation, but in itself it makes a lot of sense and is very convincing in its character analysis (also from what I know of Henry and his religion politics, which as you may recall I researched extensively for my B.A. orals). Plus, there is a lot of Margaret Beaufort- and Henry Tudor-bashing (VILE USURPER LONG LIVE KING RICHARD). For those of you like me who're into that sort of thing. Warning however: Katharine of Aragon features prominently, so there is a lot of pregnancy/childbirth/infant death heartbreak.

53: Harbour Street, by Ann Cleeves

This was a very intriguing suspense mystery, but it got rather bleak and depressing towards the end. Not necessarily a cheerful read.

54: WARP. The Reluctant Assassin, by Eoin Colfer

I've grown tired of Artemis Fowl, so I didn't really follow that series anymore, but I love this fresh new YA Timetravel one of his. The first ten or fifteen pages require a bit of patience as you think you may be dealing with an outright Mary Sue, but it gets really fun and quirky after that. It's a fast-paced, quick read, I went through it in an afternoon.

Now reading Doomsday Book and loving it. It took me about thirty pages or so to really get into it but I was sold when I realised that Shrewsbury College was a real place in it and now I'm about a quarter into it and totally hooked!
lizzardgirl: (books)
50: Central Park, by Guillaume Musso

My mum liked this so much she kept telling me I should read it, but I dunno. It was a really, really gripping tale with a very surprising ending, but in hindsight there are some really creepy implications. Also I feel that it should come with several warnings, but any of them would be a plot spoiler, so if any of you are thinking about reading this and wonder about warnings, let me know and I'll tell you.

51: The Testament, by John Grisham

Ugh. I had never read Grisham before and I don't think I will read one again any time soon. I really disliked this one. The plot was fairly gripping until it lost steam about 3/4 through and I kept waiting for a twist that I thought had been hinted at pretty bluntly before but seemed to have been forgotten and everything just petered out. But the real annoying thing was the narration which was such a jarring blend of idolising money and evangelical preachiness, with a few choice bits of jingoism, racism, elitism, sexism, classism and a few other -isms thrown in for good measure. The narrator just dumped level upon level of hatred and viciousness on all of his characters (which it seems he created mainly for hating them) for petty reasons such as that they hadn't been able to attend a good school or wore cheap suits, then had his main character undergo a magical personality transplant by finding God because dontcha know it, Christianity makes everything better, even poor naive naked brown people in the jungle who really need to stop worshipping snakes because that's just like totally silly. Ugh. Just ugh.

(Note: I don't mind stories about people finding God, but I'd like it happen a little more subtly than 'money money money yadda yadda everything's vicious people stink especially lawyers BAM!JESUS now my life is on track again. Btw poor brown people what haven't found God yet. Oh plot what plot I guess I'll end the book just now. Money for everyone! MONEY RULZ. Uhm okay God kinda rules too but MONEY!!!!!')

The only funny thing about this book was that it's set in about 1996 so every time the narrator raved about the latest technological gadgets that the ~MONEY~ could buy I was thinking about the brick-like Nokias and crappy little pagers that would mean.
lizzardgirl: (books)
49: La Vérité sur l'Affaire Harry Quebert, by Joel Dicker

I am done. I am finished with it. Can you believe it took me a month to read this book? Actually, considering that it was 860 pages, can you believe it took me only one month? It felt like AGES. AGES I TELLS YOU.

Now, you may think that the fact that I finished it speaks for my endurance and my tenacity, but no.

The only thing that kept me going was this book.


GO READ THIS BOOK. In whatever language you like (don't read it in French if you're as slow as me, although the author writes with a wicked tone and rhythm).

This book is awesome. It is marvellous, or, as my new favourite language would put it, MERVEILLEUX. You won't want to put it down.

I don't even know where to start. The plotting is awesome. The crafting. The characters. The narration. The wicked humour in between. The tension. The whole mystery and the mystery of the mystery and --- well I don't want to tell too much. It's a crime thriller, but it's also a book about writing books, a book about people who write books, a book about books, a book about people - it's COMPLETEMENT FANTASTIQUE.

Go read it. Read it now.
lizzardgirl: (books)
45: The Last Secret of the Temple, by Paul Sussman

This was marketed as Da Vinci Code, but better and you know how I love me some absurd conspiracies now and then. It was better than I expected. Yes, it was all a bit ridiculous with ancient artifacts etc, but the plot was woven very neatly, the characters were very interesting and the shocking twists, although they came out of the blue, were not completely random as with Dan Brown, but made sense in hindsight. It also avoided some of the traps that Dan Brown always falls into what with all the exposition monologues and such. Also I thought that all the current-day stuff with Israeli/Palestinian/Arab tensions was handled very delicately without undue vilifying of either side. There's quite a lot of swearing, I should warn you though, and of course it runs havoc with Jewish/Christian mythology, which may not be everyone's thing (but I thought it was decently enough handled, unlike some other stories I could mention.)

(As an aside: Should I read Dan Brown's latest (okay, a couple of years old by now) just to snark it? I kinda haven't really snarked anything in a long time, but then I wouldn't want to waste time reading crap ...)

46: Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett
47: Soul Music, by Terry Pratchett
48: Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett

So worth it to read them in order! I loved them to bits. I get now why you all love this series and Susan so much. Okay, I'll admit it was a bit weird reading an essentially Christmas-themed book in hot June! (None of you mentioned that it was a Christmas book!) but other than that it was awesome.

Now reading the giant big French tome of French, so it'll be ages until I can make another update :)
lizzardgirl: (books)
42: Er ist wieder da, by Timur Vermes (English title Look Who's Back)

I don't know whether you've heard of this one, it caused quite a bit of interest in Germany when it came out about two years ago. The premise is that Adolf Hitler, who's the narrator, instead of being dead, suddenly wakes up in Berlin in 2013 believing it's still 1945 and he's just had a really long nap. And then he starts having a career on German TV. It's definitely satire, and it's very good - hauntingly so. Part of it actually is a satire on satire. Okay, some passages dragged a little, but the rest was very uncomfortable. In a good way. The author has nazi-speak down pat and it's creepy. I'm not sure how good any English translations are.

43: Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

I'm still waiting for Reaper Man but in the meantime, I really enjoyed this one.

44: Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett

Decided to re-read one of my favourites (because time travel) while waiting for Reaper Man. Still like it a lot. I'm just wondering though, did Carcer ever turn up in any of the other novels of the City Watch? Am I supposed to know him and have forgotten him?
lizzardgirl: (books)
40: The White Princess, by Philippa Gregory

I think maybe it's time for me to stop with this series. I mean, I knew from the first one in that it was historical crack, but it used to be more entertaining, I think? And less conflicting. Also, I loved that in the previous books, she'd built up Richard III (LONG LIVE KING RICHARD) as yes, ambitious, but above all, an honourable man, devoted to the memory of his brothers and in love with Anne Neville. I didn't buy that in the very first chapter of this one, she suddenly decided that Richard not only fell in love with the niece he had protected from birth, but took to shamelessly flirting with and courting her under the eyes of Anne Neville, even going so far as having Richard shag his own niece while promising her to make her queen, all the while Anne Neville still lived! I think Gregory fell for the Shakespearean propaganda she'd tried so hard to avoid there. The book got better in the later chapters, but not really all that good. It seems the author had decided that Elizabeth would have conflicting feelings for Henry VII (THE LYING USURPER LONG LIVE KING RICHARD) but instead of really going with that and analysing it, she settled for Elizabeth having different feelings for Henry (THE LYING USURPER LONG LIVE KING RICHARD) every chapter without really explaining the changes beyond some vague allusions to sexual pleasure. Also while there was very entertaining craziness by Grotsky Margaret Beaufort, there was not enough. There can never be enough Grotsky Margaret.

(If you think about it, and this is not really related to this book, but to the whole series, Henry Tudor (THE LYING USURPER LONG LIVE KING RICHARD) was only pushed to usurp by Grotsky Margaret, who in turn was only so twisted because her mother sold her to Edmund Tudor who raped her when she was 12. So I guess we can blame Margaret Beaufort of Bletsoe and Edmund Tudor for the whole mess especially the death of Richard (LONG LIVE KING RICHARD). Also they need to make another series of The White Queen but this time a sitcom of the married life of Grotsky Margaret Beaufort and King Rupert's Beard aka Lord Stanley.)

41: The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore

Oh, this book was awesome. So, so awesome and sweet. It's the story of three middle-aged women in Plainview, Indiana who have to face radical changes in their lives while looking back at their past, and I know that sounds like a run-of-the-mill plot and I guess it probably is. But the way it comes to life in this book is just amazing. The first chapter had a wonderful twist right at the end and it only got better from there. All the characters feel so alive and real. It's sweet and touching but at the same time oh so quirky and funny and altogether just perfect. It's the author's first book and I wonder what he'll come up with next. In the meantime, y'all need to go and read this! :D
lizzardgirl: (books)
35: The Thief of Time, by Terry Pratchett

This was one of the Pratchetts which for some reason I hadn't read before, even though my library had it. I enjoyed it tremendously. It was awesome all round.

36: A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
37: Shadow of Night, by Deborah Harkness
38: The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness

Marie was right, it was soooo worth it to read it all in order. It just got progressively better and it paid off to know exactly who was what and where and all that stuff. I also enjoyed that it was not all-happily-paired-off at the ending although why no love for poor Fernando??? I so wanted Fernando to find love again!!! And Gallowglass. Now I want a sequel about Fernando and Gallowglass finding love. Not with each other of course because Fernando is practically his father. They could be something like time-travelling detectives finding loves for each other. In conclusion you all need to read this especially Shem because there are gay vampires and demons.

39: Mayhem, by Sarah Pinborough

I feel sorry for this book. It was such a neat and nifty idea, albeit very gruesome - explaining the Ripper murders by an old evil residing in London. And there really were good points and the author's writing has much potential. But it would have benefitted so much from very ruthless editing, not only to weed out all the wrongly-placed commata, but also to give it a better flow and more narrative cohesion. The way it is, I wouldn't really recommend it because it just feels awkward and rambling at times.
lizzardgirl: (books)
30: Teaching Harry Potter: The Power of Imagination in Multicultural Classrooms, by Catherine Belcher and Becky Herr Stephenson

I'll admit it, when I first saw this book, I thought it'd be rather gimmicky, but I was wrong. It's a really interesting look into classroom realities, and shows a love of the subject and a dedication to teaching that is really admirable. It wasn't really helpful for German classrooms, because all the ideas are tied to the American system, but on the other hand, I got some fascinating insights into American classrooms and the difficulties of teaching in 'problem' areas with little support from the authorities. Also good to know that 'teaching to the test' isn't a bad thing only here.

31: Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett

I'll admit it: I was a bit disappointed, and I feel bad about that. It's not that this wasn't a perfectly good book - it was, it was great fun, I loved the whole train theme, I loved to see more of Moist and Spike - it was just, seeing as this was the last one he lived to see published, I'd expected something bigger, grander, something like a final goodbye with a bang. But I feel bad about that because it *is* a great book and all that and really how can I ask for more and also he just died and I feel bad about wanting more.

32: Dead Water, by Ann Cleeves

It's the fifth book in her Shetland series. I didn't think she'd write another one after the heartbreaking way #4 ended, but she did and I think this was a very fitting continuation. Good mystery too.

33: Calling Me Home, by Julie Kibler

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the writing is a bit disappointing. The narrative voices often fall flat and there are too many instances of telling instead of showing. Plus, there is a bit of preachiness (non-religious) going on. On the other hand, it is certainly a very powerful book. It's a tale of racial segregation in rural Kentucky in the 1930s, and the aftermath still palpable today. It's a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching tale, and even more so if you consider what it says about a society that still had anti-miscenegation laws in living memory (especially in light of the recent riots etc). For bringing all that on the table, maybe a little preachiness and a heroine that sometimes toes the line of Mary Sue-ism can be forgiven. Also, I'm not going to lie, I totally cried over the ending, which was beautifully done.

34: This House is Haunted, by John Boyne

It's pretty obvious right from the beginning that this is a sort of homage to Charles Dickens, especially his ghost tales. That's not a bad thing. Whilst I'm sure that there were a few period inaccuracies, this was a very neat, very unsettling gothic Victorian tale full of suspension, plus, as it ought to be in gothic fiction, a heroine who is sometimes too stupid to live.

Books 24-29

Apr. 8th, 2015 11:26 am
lizzardgirl: (books)
I did so much lazy reading over Easter, it was wonderful.

24: Der Fälscher, by Cay Rademacher

I mentioned earlier that I wasn't that invested in this series but I at least wanted to read the last book. It was decent, but not that intriguing.

25: The Heist, by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

Okay, I said I had had enough of Evanovich for the moment, but this was brand-new at the library and it was pure relaxing brain candy, like a good action movie. I like that the heroine here is really competent, unlike Stephanie.

26: Heartless, by Gail Carriger

More Werewolves! Vampires! Alexia!

27: Die Engelmacherin, by Camilla Läckberg

This is one of those Scandinavian crime series that I really liked when it first started, but by now I'm just confused about how many houses and people with a dark and mysterious past there can be in a tiny Swedish coastal town, and when did mysterious Nazi links get *so* tiresome? I don't think I'll be searching out any of her further books.

28: Timeless, by Gail Carriger

Last book in the Alexia series! *sob* but I liked how it tied up so many things I hadn't even realised were loose plot points from the first books. Also, Biffy got romance! Yay! But there's one thing I don't get - maybe someone of you knows (Meg, you read them, right?) Why did the Chancellor need Alexia or Prudence to kill Matakara? Couldn't he just have staked her? Conall killed Walsingham by staking. Or if she's on constant blood supply, just take away the blood? Or doesn't that work for vampire queens? Because otherwise ... the plot of the book would be pretty pointless.

29: Scheunenherzen, by Axel Bauer

This was a sarcastic take on a very popular TV format in Germany (Farmer Needs Wife) and it was rather funny, though after my sister's rave review I'd expected a little more.

Books 13-23

Apr. 1st, 2015 10:36 am
lizzardgirl: (books)
13: The Throwback, by Tom Sharpe

Okay, Sharpe's humour is puerile and party really gross, but I can't help it, I chuckle every time. This was a re-read of a long-time favourite.

14: Dyslexia in the Second-Language Classroom, by Joanna Nijakowska

Uhm ... riveting read? Seriously though, it wasn't really as concise as I'd hoped too.

15: Speaking from among the Bones, by Alan Bradley
16: The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley

Okay, my overall judgment is that I really loved the turn these books have taken, however I think a bit more shadowing about some of these things might have been nice. That there was more to Harriet's death than met the eye I think was wonderfully set up (like, you think it's your average children's novel death off-scene until you realise that Harriet would have been climbing the mountains in the middle of a war why would she do that???) but couldn't they have made passing mention of Lena before? And that American pilot?

17: Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
18: Making Money, by Terry Pratchett

When I found out about his death, I just had to re-read those because they might be among my favourites of his. He and his genius will be missed.

19: Takedown Twenty, by Janet Evanovich
20: Top-Secret Twenty-One, by Janet Evanovich

These are nice brain candy now and then, but I think the plots get *really* weird and the jokes really repetitive. Also could she just make up her mind about the boys?

21: Soulless, by Gail Carriger
22: Changeless, by Gail Carriger
23: Blameless, by Gail Carriger

You guys, I am so in love with these books. The author doesn't have the slightest clue about British titles and I couldn't care less. I just love love love them. I am going to get the final two from the library this afternoon. It's a bit pulp fiction-y (but in a steampunk!fantasy! manner) but such a refreshing read!

Books 7-12

Mar. 11th, 2015 10:40 am
lizzardgirl: (books)
Book 7: Spur 24, by Wolfgang Kaes

This was pretty much a run-of-the-mill German crime story, rather decently done.

Book 8: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Just needed to add one more to my LPW re-read ;-) This was my first LPW ages and eons ago, and I love that I am still discovering new things even after all those years. This time it really struck me that Ann Dorland seems like a very early version of Harriet - did anyone else feel that way?

Book 9: Sternstunden der Menschheit, by Stefan Zweig

This book. Oh this book. It's a set of fourteen historical miniatures, but this is really not that important. I fell in love with the language. It's German at its most powerful, most beautiful imaginable. It's forceful, dreamy, poetic, just slightly antiquated - it's just aweful, in the original sense of that word. Google-fu tells me it's been published in English as Decisive Moments in History or Tides of Fortune, but I'm not sure if a translator could fully do that language justice. I know I couldn't, but then I'm not a native speaker of English.

Book 10: 1913: Der Sommer des Jahrhunderts, by Florian Illies

This book had the great misfortune that I read it back-to-back with the Stefan Zweig and it just ... fell short. It's a pleasant enough read, even witty - it's basically a collection of anecdotes of things that happened throughout the year 1913, and how some of them were a cultural climax of the 20th century. It's a very intriguing premise, and it was decently enough executed - but after the Zweig, the language just felt flat and the tone too familiar and chummy. But I think I'd have liked it better if I'd read it at another time. (The English title, apparently, is 1913: The Year Before The Storm, if anyone is interested.)

Book 11: Märzgefallene, by Volker Kutscher

Another German crime story, this time the fifth in a series set in 1920s/30s Berlin. This one takes place just after the Nazis came into power, and though the murder mystery was a bit confusing and there were some historical details I side-eyed, the description of the atmosphere of suspicion and dread was well done, very chilling and eery. I don't think there's an English version though.

Book 12: Der Schieber, by Cay Rademacher

Another German historical crime story, this one set in 1947 Hamburg, second in a series I started last year. I'm not too keen on the narrative voice, but the story is pretty interesting and I like the amount of details, so I'm going to get the third one from the library as well.

Books 4-6

Feb. 1st, 2015 07:44 pm
lizzardgirl: (books)
Book 4: Bluestockings, by Jane Robinson

Caroline lent me this book, about women in British academia 1869-1939, and it was really fascinating. The author meticulously dug through all sorts of experience reports, from interviewing old students in those cases where they were still alive, to diaries, letters, etc. A beautiful picture of so many women dedicated to learning and self-fulfillment. My problem with this book was that it got too anecdotal at times. Robinson recounted what she'd learnt with great passion, but I think there might have been more coherence in the way she ordered things - for one thing, it's all divided up in chapters, but I couldn't always make out what one chapter's point was supposed to be compared to the previous. Also, sometimes she bundles things together too much and seems to forget, over the common theme of studying women, that there is actually a pretty great difference in external circumstances between 1869 and 1939 and that people's experiences can't just generalised over seventy years. But still, a very enjoyable read.

Book 5: Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Okay, so, uhm, obviously I love this book. I love how we know see Peter's and Harriet's love for each other play out, see them painfully and tenderly navigate a relationship and all that and I'm absolutely grateful we got to see those scenes. But, it's just not Gaudy Night-like. It's top-notch and all that, but Gaudy Night just is its own league. What I love very much about this book is that you get a real sense of the scenes and fast-paced dialogue and such, from the theatre play it was originally (and boy would I love to see that play) but that also means that some of the epilogue bits feel a bit ... tacked on (and conversely, some of the dialogue scenes earlier on feel almost too-fast paced for a novel, and a bit to much like fishing for a punchline)? Also I get that it's a real break-through for them in the end that Peter manages to ask Harriet for help, and those scenes are really wonderfully touching, but it's a bit depressing that they bond over an execution ... But I don't want it to sound as if I'm not liking this book, I am, I'm loving it in fact, just ... I would have loved to have read Gaudy Night Pt II.

Book 6: The Shooting Party, by Isabel Colegate

That's the book that I was ranting about earlier this week. It got better, it was quite an okay read in the end. There were a few bits that I really liked, like how the author managed to describe what I'd call consensual adultery - i.e. sort of like an Edwardian open marriage - with having the partners have respect for each other. I also thought that the climax of the story was fairly neat and sort of just put well together. I just didn't think it was more than just a good read - and quite apart from the egregious error that I mentioned earlier (that, in the end, had no influence whatsoever on the plot, so yeah, whatever) it was fairly obvious that the book was written in the 1980s and trying too much to pretend it was written in 1913.

Books 2&3

Jan. 18th, 2015 06:09 pm
lizzardgirl: (books)
Book 2: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Hm, yeah, I don't know whether I can say anything new about this since I discussed it before ;-) Oh yeah: HELL YES INTELLIGENCE *IS* SEXY. Also, I just love, love, love so many little details in this book and while reading I always love looking forward to them. Like when Harriet realises that Peter took her gown per accident, and then decides it doesn't really matter. Because it also signifies that Harriet realises - and that she realises Peter saw it this way all along - that as far as education and university rank go, they are equals, and that they could meet as equals in a marriage. Or when Miss de Vine tells Harriet it's bloody obvious she's in love with Peter. Or about every time Peter is happy when Harriet doesn't rebuff him. And the punt scene of course. So much the punt scene. I always have to restrain myself almost physically not to skip ahead to the punt scene and Peter's underlying elation afterwards. Also, Katharine was right, of course now I have to read Busman's Honeymoon too. Also it's made me all excited about the book about the development of university education for women that I borrowed from Caroline but haven't started yet, because Gaudy Night always makes me wish I could attend an Oxford women's college in the 1930s.

Book 3: The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, by Sinclair McKay

For all intents and purposes, this should be #2 because I read all but the last ten pages or so before I started Gaudy Night. It was a very interesting read and quite illuminating in some ways. (I also realise that some of the Bletchley allusions I made in Blackout wouldn't really have worked that way, but since I never named Bletchley in the story, I think I can get away with that :D) One thing I missed a little was - since I used to be quite proficient in Maths in another lifetime - a more mathematical analysis of how the codes were cracked and how the enigma encoding and decoding actually works. I had the feeling the author was a bit out of his depths there. But I can't really find a fault with that since the book never promised anything mathematical ;-) I'll just have to find Simon Singh's book on secret codes and then see if maybe the library has something more about enigma codes. I'll probably not get all of it but I'd like some more mathematical insights all the same. But apart from that, it was a really fascinating book! Thanks Caroline for lending it!
lizzardgirl: (books)
There is no beating about the bush - I failed spectacularly at keepin a 2014 booklist.

I did read, however, and quite a bit.

At the beginning of the year, I'd said that I wanted to read more about American history/culture/politics, and I did do that. I read an utterly fascinating book about the Dutch origins of New York that opened a complete new world to me and was meticulously researched. I forget the title but the author was Russell Sholto, I think. I also read a very interesting book about the history of the settlers from the Mayflower and its interaction with the other early settlers and the Native Americans, and about how certain negative trends in the treatment of Native Americans developed very early on. I read a rather neat little anecdotal book about the Founding Presidents that didn't leave any lasting impressions apparently because all I remember is that Hamilton died on a cliff? Apparently. Then I read a totally convoluted, badly translated gigantic tome claiming to be the ultimate wisdom on the military campaigns of the Civil War. It was not uninteresting, and I learnt quite a bit, but ultimately, the style of writing both of the author and the German translator were completely off-putting and I sort of stopped with American-themed books after that and I don't think you can blame me for that.

I also said I wanted to read about the First World War. I read Three Emperors by I'm-forgetting-who-right-now-but-I-can-look-it-up-if-anyone-wants-to-know. It was vastly fascinating, a close study of the characters and interactions of Wilhelm II, Nicholas II and George V. Then I started The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clarke, some time in the summer, and it embarrasses me to say I'm still on it. It's good, don't get me wrong, but oh-so-many Yugoslavian names that I just can't keep straight. Very interesting view though on how even though really anything could have started the fire that the Great War was, the fact that it happened in Serbia was not by any means random. I hope to finish it eventually.

I had also hoped to discover a new series to read. Well, I did re-read the Jasper Fforde Dragonslayer series or rather, the first two, then read the new one, but that doesn't exactly count, although I liked it a lot. I also read/re-read Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series (still waiting for Foxglove Summer though!) and that one is awesome, but not exactly new to me either. (ETA: Forgot that I also re-read all the ASOIAF in order. That was after I became convinced that Tywin may be impotent. But I guess even this fascinating new insight won't make it count as a new series.) And before Christmas I started a re-read of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, but that won't really count either.

Of independent novels that I read this year, All That I Am by - I think - Anna Funder (Finder?) stands out. It's a rather quick, but very deep, gripping tale of Weimar Germany and the rise of Nazism, and also deep love and friendship and betrayal.

Non-fictionwise, apart from the above, I want to give a shout-out to Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne, which gets all the thumbs ups I can give (seriously! Eye-opener! Completely!) and I'll also recommend Bill Bryson's 1927: One Summer that changed America (which I guess might count as another of my American books, now that I think about it?).

There were heaps more books, also quite some re-reads, the dearest of which were perhaps the first four in Lindsey Davis' Falco series, because I just love Falco. But I can't think of any specifics quite now.

I don't really have any reading goals for 2015, apart from that I want to continue with reading more non-fiction, and I already have three vastly interesting-looking books on three diverse topics (Bletchley!Women's Education!Georgian London!) that Caroline kindly lent me. I might continue with the themes of America and the First World War, too, if anything comes up or looks interesting, but I might also try some other topics.

I will also make trying to find/possibly buy new, which as you may know I do rarely, both for financial and spatial reasons, the Connie Willis books everyone is raving about lately.

Oh and I so have to get Foxglove Summer, and soon.


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