Welcome, Reader!

So, you’ve stumbled across my humble book blog – welcome!
This is where I write about my reading experiences. I review books I’ve read. I share my thoughts on various reading topics. And sometimes I write about my personal life.
Feel free to check out the most recent posts down below.
Looking for something specific? Have a look at my review list!

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May Wrap Up…belated.

I know June’s already two weeks old and I’m late with this – but better late than never, right? Right!
Okay so, let’s wrap up last month’s reading, shall we?
Let’s also keep using worn-out uncool proverbs! Like this one: In German, there is a saying that can be roughly translated into “May makes everything new” (German: Alles neu macht der Mai).
For me, this saying has never been more truthful! These past weeks marked the beginning of a whole new job and the end of my life as a bookseller.
If you’ve read my last post you already know that because of that I was anticipating a change in my reading behaviour.
I actually think that this change has already become fairly obvious in the reading choices I made in May. I returned to the more obscure, the sometimes even weird. I read what I ABSOLUTELY WANTED to read and did not consider the selling potential of the book I chose, or the actuality of the subject. I simply read what I felt like. Admittedly, I still feel the pressure of my TBR but that’s a problem we all have, right? (Please say yes…)

So, let’s have a look at what I read in May!

psychopath test

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
3 out of 5 stars
This was a fairly interesting non-fiction read. Ronson explores the world of mental illness with the premise that there’s a lot more madness to be found in our society than we might want to believe or might want to notice. The reader is taken on a trip from elaborate hoaxes played by scientists on their peers to a list of traits that determine if someone is, in fact, a psychopath. I liked Ronson’s conversational style and the fact that sometimes his book reads more like a novel or a travel log.
I only gave three stars because it got a bit too rambly and it lacked a narrative structure. Though each chapter was interesting by itself, I never knew where he was going with the whole of it. An introductory and a concluding chapter might have helped with this. Still an intriguing read if you want to know about the psychopaths among us.

vinegar girl

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
2 out of 5 stars
This is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. And I’m sad to say, not a really good one. Tyler manages to turn Shakespeare’s comedy into a boring mess of flat characters making weird decisions. I can’t imagine what she does when left to her own devices, without source material to work off of, but this was blah if you don’t mind me putting it that way.
Want a great retelling of this play? Watch 10 Things I Hate About You instead, and that’s all I have to say about this.

 

dragons

 

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
2 out 5
I sense a theme for the month of May: A great premise made into something so boring it’s barely readable.
This one is set in the Victorian Age in a fantasy world that might as well be England. It is about a female scholar who fights her way into the scientific field of researching dragons!
Female hero! Feminist goals! Victorians! Dragons! And that glorious cover! This must be the perfect book!
These were my thoughts when I read the synopsis. Alas, Brennan manages to tear all of it apart with her utterly boring story telling. Almost nothing happens! And in those rare moments when the plot is actually advancing, there’s no thrill or suspense to it because the narrator (telling her own life story) is so far removed from the events! The reader already knows that the main character is going to survive it all and become a well-known dragon expert, so we simply trudge along and hope for something exciting to happen. Something that simply doesn’t.
I am so disappointed by this. Since this is a five-part series I actually might give Brennan another chance and read the second instalment but only because the cover and illustrations inside the book are so goddamn gorgeous!

schatten

Schatten by U. Poznanski
5 out of 5 stars
This is part for in an Austrian crime series centred around police detective Beatrice Kaspary. I’m not going to go into detail about it. I’m only going to say that this is Poznanski’s best one yet and if you want to read it you should definitely read the whole series and start at the beginning! I read this in one sitting! A fun and absolutely thrilling read!

So… four books!
I think it’s been quite a while since I read a book a week.
Since I’m moving soon, June and July are going to be rather slow, reading-wise. But I feel like I’m back on track and even though most of last month’s books were not as great as I’d hoped, I’m glad to have chosen them all on my own. 😉

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Changes…

The time has come. I’ve been waiting to announce this for quite a while now. And today is the day I can finally make it official!
I’m going to be leaving the book business behind. For good.
I’m starting a new job in May. One that has absolutely nothing to do with books whatsoever.

Here’s why this is an important change for me…
For two and a half years I’ve been working as a bookseller.
When I became part of the book business I had mixed feelings about making reading part of my professional life. Since I got my first library card (and even before that) reading was something I did for fun, and  I knew that from now on reading would also be something that I’d have to do. I would also have to change the way I pick the books I read. Well, when you work in a bookstore you better know the stuff you’re selling!

Like I said, I was worried about this when I started and it turns out it all came true. Nowadays, I tend to pick books that I can also imagine recommending to customers. There’s always this tiny voice in the back of my head that thinks about how I would sell the book I’m currently reading. I read books in the order of their publishing date and always feel a bit of pressure when a book has already come out and my copy is still resting on my TBR.
Reading has become a bit of a chore. Something I have to do for work.
I feel restricted in my reading choices.
Of course this also means that I regularly get to read outside my comfort zone (crime fiction, romance, children’s books), which is a good thing but it also means that a lot of books I would probably love because of their weirdness or otherness are pretty much rotting on my shelves because I can’t find the time to read them.

When becoming a bookseller I made my hobby part of my job and while this might work for some people, for me it was the worst thing to do. Right now I am incredibly happy to announce that from now on reading will be nothing but pleasure again! I will read and write about whatever books I want and there won’t be no restrictions anymore! I liked being part of the book business and I’ve had the best colleagues in the world but I’m also glad that this part of my professional life is going to be over soon.

From now on, dear readers, I will be one of you once more!

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What I read in March

Okay, this is going to be a short one.
In March I read three books. However, one of them was really long.
Here they are in all their glory:

The Nix and We Are Okay were each in their very own way wonderful! You can read my reviews if you’d like to know more.
I’m still trying to figure out what to write about The Book of Mirrors. I definitely wasn’t impressed by that one.
Doing the maths on the star ratings I gave each book, March gets an average of 3.6 stars out of 5. Chirovici’s mess of a book really dragged down the average rating there… Let’s hope my April reads will be as great as Nathan Hill’s masterpiece.

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Review: Nina LaCour – We Are Okay

we are okay
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

4 out of 5 stars

Contemporary YA is not really my genre. And it’s fairly rare that any book in that genre catches my attention. For me to want to read it there has to be something particularly interesting or special about the plot/style/narrative. There just has to be something about it.
And, to be honest, most of the YA books out there can’t really keep that kind of promise. Which is okay. I’m in my thirties now (oh well, writing that down hurt a bit) and these books are definitely not written for me. They are not supposed to speak to me in any way. However, from time to time there are a few gems to find in that genre.

One of those gems is We Are Okay by Nina LaCour.
It’s the story of Marin, who we meet as a lonely college girl who seems to have left her hometown and her friends and family behind because of something or other that happened, which she doesn’t want to talk about. It’s all quite mysterious for the first part of the novel and I’m not going to reveal anything in this review.

The narrative goes back and forth between the past and present and it is done in such a structured and well-written way that I can’t seem to decide which I liked better. LaCour makes you want to keep reading. At first, because you want to know the reasons for Marin’s escape and her sadness. But then you keep going because you actually feel for her and hope that her story will come to a happy ending.

And that is what most YA contemporary novels lack, in my opinion: sincerity and authenticity. Yes, some of Marin’s actions are quite angsty and over the top; but still, they are believable behaviour for a teenage girl who has pretty much left everyone she loved behind.

Another thing that makes We Are Okay stand out is that it’s not plot driven at all and that it relies heavily on language. Nina LaCour has a beautiful way of describing feelings and memories. Here’s an example:

“It’s a dark place, not knowing.
It’s difficult to surrender to.
But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it’s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.”

Also, that love scene on the beach is one of the most sincere, realistic, and touching things I’ve ever come across in a YA book. Simply beautiful.
To me, this is a book that shows that its author takes her readers seriously. There’s no dumbing down, no simplifying of matters or feelings. I love it when YA literature is intelligent and honest!
Also – what a cover! 

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Review: Nathan Hill – The Nix

the nix nathan hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill
5 out of 5 stars

Wow! This book! It’s only March but The Nix might become my number one read of 2017!

It surprised me; it kept coming back to me even when I wasn’t reading; it made me laugh; it was sad at times; it was an agitating read; and a fun one; and a pensive one.
These things wrapped into one big tome of roughly 600 pages. And every single one of them has a right to exist! Not one page felt superfluous. Even though you don’t see it at first, everything, every character, and every meandering plotline is important for the novel as a whole.

The Nix is a story about a college professor whose mother left him when he was eleven. It’s fairly safe to say that this was a traumatizing episode for young Samuel; and given the chance as a grown up, he wants to find out the true reason for his mother’s abandonment. That’s the books premise in a nutshell. The really wonderful thing is what Hill makes of it.
Because it’s not only a novel about abandonment issues. It’s about family structures and about the fixed impressions we have of the people in our life. I love how Hill makes you hate/dislike a certain character up until you find out their backstory and you begin to rethink your opinion. In general, the characters in this book don’t seem too relatable until you get to their point of view and you see their motivations for behaving the way they do.
Hill leads the reader through these ever-changing narratives in a non-linear but structured way. He’s awesome at seamlessly picking up where he left off a few chapters ago.
He makes it possible for every character in this book to be the main character once. A quote that captures this fairly well, in my opinion, is this:

“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.” p.618

What a great way of saying you have to take a step back and see the big picture before judging someone!

Yes, you do have to get through the first fifty to hundred pages not knowing what’s really going on. And I actually kept thinking to myself, “why should I be interested in this whiny guy’s story again?”. But once you’re into the flow of the novel you get why the narrative makes all these digressions. And then it all comes together piece by piece, with every page you read.

Another thing I absolutely love is how The Nix doesn’t take itself too seriously. It constantly pokes fun at academia and the publishing industry. It even goes into metafictional terrain from time to time. One quote that made me laugh was when the main character’s publisher says this about the book he – Samuel – writes:

“So it’s going to be like six hundred pages and ten people will read it?” p.613

Reading this sentence near the end of the epic six-hundred-page novel you’re about to finish is pure genius!
What a novel! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading a well-crafted, intelligent, and beautiful story!

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What I read in February

My reading goal for this year is 30 books. I set up a goal that is rather low (compared to the number of books I usually read per year) in order to take some of the pressure off reading. I wanted to be able to stop thinking about the speed at which I read.
There are also a few things about to change in my personal life that will affect my reading life. I’ll reveal more about that soon. For now, let’s just say that I will be able to choose my reading material much more freely than I am now.

However, even though I’ve set quite a low goal for this year’s reading challenge, I’ve already managed to read TEN books. Without giving it any special thought I’ve already achieved a third of what I set myself to do. Of course, I never believed I would only read 30 books in 2017 but I absolutely love that there is no longer that looming, hovering number stressing me out. Reading-wise, this year is off to a great start.

So, without further ado, here is what I read in February 2017.

 

My absolute favourite this month was Sylvain Neuvel’s Waking Gods (5 stars), which is the second part of his “Themis Files” series. Anyone who likes entertaining but meaningful SciFi needs to read this!

If you’re interested you can find reviews of The Trap (2 stars) and Time Travelling with a Hamster (4 stars) here on my blog.

I also read some comic books. This is how I spent my day recovering from an Academy Awards all-nighter.
That first omnibus of the new Captain Marvel series was a bit unimaginative but okay – 2.5 stars.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan was bloody and dark and awesome! 4 stars for that one.

All in all, a pretty good reading month!

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Review: Ross Welford – Time Travelling with a Hamster

time-travelling-with-a-hamsterTime Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford
out of 5 stars

Ross Welford has written a really wonderful time travel story for kids!
This is the story Albert Chaudhury who on his twelfth birthday gets a letter from his deceased father telling him that Albert might have a chance of preventing his dad’s death – by travelling through time! What a great premise for a middle-grade book! There are tons of time-travel stories out there but I really think this one stands out.

Let me tell you why…
First of all, you have the cultural background invoked by Welford. Albert is part-Indian and the way the author includes bits of Indian culture here and there is really well-done and makes for an interesting read. I absolutely loved the (a bit over-the-top) portrayal of Alberts grandfather wearing traditional Indian clothing, drinking chai tea and meditating all the time.

I also like it when a book can teach you bits and pieces of knowledge without getting too “teachy” about it. Welford manages to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity and the paradoxes of time travel in a book aimed at 10-to-twelve-year-olds, for crying out loud! He also includes a bit of 80s trivia, computer knowledge and pop-culture references – making this book a fun read for any (kind of geeky) adult.

Apart from that, it’s also a beautiful little story of friendship and family. It’s as much about time travel as it is about the fact that our actions always have consequences; it’s about being brave and standing up to bullies, and it’s about doing everything you can for the people you love.

It’s not the best time-travel plot I’ve ever read, but it is one of the best middle-grade time-travel books there is!

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