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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2017 – My year in Reading

~ in which I answer hard-pressing questions like “have I read more ebooks than physical ones?” or “which genre was the predominant one?” and of course “which one was my 2017 favourite?” ~

But first, let’s get the resolutions out of the way!
Here’s my new year’s resolution for 2018: Write more! And write consistently!

I have neglected my blog in recent months and I probably could make up some half-assed excuse for this. But here’s the truth: I’ve been lazy. I’ve started writing some reviews and even had a few other ideas but I haven’t finished anything really since August. So there, this is my first step in the direction of bettering myself.

On a personal level, 2017 has been an awesome year. After ten years of living in the same apartment, I’ve finally moved on to something bigger, brighter and quieter. Also, in May I started a new job that improved what is nowadays called my “work-life-balance”. A LOT. Although I miss parts of my old job (my colleagues!!! and being surrounded by books all day), all in all, I’m in a much better place now than I was a year before.

So, this was the personal side of it. Now let’s get to the interesting part.

2017 in reading!

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I read (i.e. finished) 38 books this year, that’s 12.265 pages! In my Goodreads reading challenge I aimed fairly low (30 books) in order to take some of the pressure off and give myself a little bit more freedom in choosing what I read. I think that worked out quite alright.

I’ve read more physical books than ebooks – 80%. I still love my e-reader, though!

I’ve only reviewed a third of the books I read – that needs to change in 2018!!

At last, let’s do the hardest part of the year in review: the favourites! I’ve decided to narrow it down to my top three… but then I simply couldn’t choose. So here are the books that received a five-star rating from me.

Out of the 38 books, I read 8 books turned out to be five-star books for me. Not a bad outcome, in my opinion… That means about 20% of the books I’ve read in 2017 were absolutely awesome!
I also think that these eight books represent my reading year awfully well. There’s Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, YA, a Thriller (!), and poetry. There are books that are part of a series as well as stand-alone novels. There are books I’ve read in German and ones in English.
As I’m writing this, I’m trying to decide which is the absolute number one and I’m torn between the two largest of the bunch. The Nix (I even reviewed that one here, yay!) and The Wise Man’s Fear (which is part two of a series) come to a close tie.

To me that sends a clear message: I tend to like big books and I’m going to not shy away from them in 2018.
And on this additional resolution, I’ll end my retrospective of 2017 in reading.

Have a great 2018 – in reading and otherwise!

 

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Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

artemis_andy weir

Artemis by Andy Weir
3 out of 5 stars

The second book by Andy Weir! Boy, have I been waiting for this!
City on the moon – check. Kickass female protagonist – check. A fun time – and some curse words – in space – let’s do this!

Okay, let’s start with the obvious.

In 2014 I received a digital ARC of The Martian and I absolutely, completely, utterly loved that book. As a bookseller I recommended it several times a day, I wanted everyone to read this fantastic new take on the Robinson Crusoe theme. I was so in awe of the storytelling, the suspense and the unique voice Andy Weir had created with his debut (!) novel.

Of course, people are going to compare Artemis with its predecessor. And what can I say, reading it I could never completely turn off that part of me that wanted another wowing science fiction story from the man who created the most memorable castaway since Tom Hanks. I think it’s normal and pretty inevitable to have high expectations in someone who has impressed you with his writing before.

In short, I did compare. (Btw, how awful is that cover art?! And on both editions!!)

There are two things Weir is an absolute genius at – world/character building and humour!

He created a believable picture of a city on the moon. Not that it is anything we have never seen or read before in sci-fi but it’s just so authentic!  It is futuristic but it’s not that far off. Just like a manned mission to Mars, you could believe that the development of this city is where humanity might be headed. I love that he has scientific explanations for every little detail (like how oxygen is created and pumped into the city) and although I won’t pretend I understood too much of it, I felt it was all sound. He incorporates human history of space travel into the novel’s present by making the location of the moon landing a tourist spot and thereby part of the city’s history and tourism industry. He manages to create a believable future of politics and economics of Earth. We might not get to see too much of our home planet but the info we get about it seems like an authentic extrapolation of the present.
All in all a world that is far away from our everyday life but still very easy to imagine.

The second thing about Weir’s writing is that he’s not afraid of making a joke. His characters curse and use colloquialisms. Personally, I like his kind of dry humour. Though some of the sexual innuendos fell a bit flat and sometimes Jazz did sound a bit like Watney’s little sister, I think he once again managed to create an individual voice and a fleshed out main character (could’ve worked on the secondaries a bit more, though).

So, Andy Weir is really really good at creating authentic worlds and characters. He knows how to write entertaining people and he doesn’t take the borders of genre too seriously.
However, in Artemis, there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to plot!

The main plot is simply too linear. It’s pretty much a typical heist plot. A gang of characters forms over the course of the novel in order to blow something up and thereby saving the world (or, in this case, the moon). I say main plot but there were actually no subplots whatsoever. Yes, there is a bit of a mystery going on at the beginning surrounding Jazz’s “client” and his motives. And there are a few background stories concerning Jazz’s friends and foes. But that’s about the size of it.

Last point of criticism. Ok, so this is where I’m guilty of comparison again. I’m not going to pretend that I understood all that science stuff he throws at you in The Martian. BUT I actually liked those parts. With Artemis, I got the feeling that the publisher might have cautioned the author to go easy on the science bits in order to attract a wider audience. I would’ve loved it if he would’ve gone full-science-geek on us.

Simply put I would have loved Artemis to be a bit more Martian.

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Review: Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman

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German Cover

Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
out of 5 stars

Before the German translation of Unorthodox was released in 2016, the whole controversy surrounding it had completely passed me by. So it was not the whole hullabaloo that was made about it but the topic itself that made me want to read Feldman’s account of growing up in a strictly religious community.

Once I was done reading the book I read up on the supposed scandal behind it. And the thing is that I don’t really care if Feldman’s story is one hundred percent true. Almost every memoir is at least partly fictionalized. Memories are subjective. So, an account of one’s life can only ever be one side of the story; one tiny peephole glimpse at the (supposed) Big Picture. I can understand that a community that is being portrayed in such a radical way (true or not) will lash out wanting to fight for its reputation. I read Feldman’s story as just that – her story. A coming-of-age story, an account of emancipation in a culture that puts women second. Unorthodox deals with the importance of little acts of freedom, and with the significance of literature and empowerment.

Continue reading

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What I read in June and July 2017

I’m going to do two months in one wrap up because I really only read one book in June.

June and July were not great reading months.
They were the months of moving house.
New flat to set up, old flat to clear… you,  know the drill.
So reading was not high on my list of priorities.

But it’s fine. We all have months like this… It’ll all get better again once I can sit on my new balcony, glass of wine in one hand, book in the other… as you do.

So, without further ado, here’s what I read in June and July.

Continue reading

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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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