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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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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Review: Melanie Raabe – The Trap

thetrapdiefalleThe Trap (orig. Die Falle) by Melanie Raabe
2 out of 5 stars

Initially, I wanted to give this a one-star rating but the fact that I actually wanted to know how it ends merits another star in my opinion. It’s the story of Linda, who found her sister murdered in her own apartment. Linda is convinced that she saw the murderer escape but he was never found. Years later she has become a famous author living a life in total isolation. Content with this agoraphobic lifestyle her only human contacts are her publisher and her assistant. One terrible day she sees the man, who allegedly escaped the scene of the crime twelve years before, on TV. He’s become a well-known journalist. So in order to get him to confess Linda writes a crime thriller about her sister’s murder and invites the man she deems to be the murderer into her house.

So far so good.

I found this premise pretty intriguing and was hoping for something of a cat-and-mouse game between these two characters – especially since Linda is portrayed as a very intelligent and clever woman. I was also hoping for something that would resemble a play since the setting (a dining room) is fairly enclosed and there really are only the two main characters who truly matter. I was hoping for an intelligent verbal exchange of blows along the lines of Koch’s The Dinner.
Alas, none of this happened.
From the beginning, Linda as a character is just not likeable. She’s arrogant and self-involved. (I listened to the audiobook and absolutely hated the voice of the actress reading it so it might have added to my opinion of the protagonist.) So you kind of hope for her to crack and to have made the wrong assumptions. I simply did not want her plan to work.

The problem is that not one of the characters are very plausible. I’m trying to keep this spoiler-free so I won’t go into this too much. But the way these people forget important things and how they react to mentally stressful situations is not very realistic.

Also, the overall conclusion was the least believable of all possible outcomes. It felt like the last showdown was simply tacked on to the rest of the plot to give the whole book some kind of grand finale.

One last thing that I absolutely hated was how the murder victim was portrayed like she had deserved to be brutally stabbed to death. In every scenario the author gives us, the victim provokes her murderer into a blind rage. It’s like the author wants us to think that the crime was in some way satisfied because this woman simply was a husband-stealing, mean girl; a bad person.

In conclusion, this book was not bad in itself. The plot was actually constructed fairly well, if not very plausible. Raabe had me convinced that I knew what was going on until the twist at the very end. She’s also not a bad writer. I think this book could have done with a more feasible motive for the murder and with a better understanding of what trauma does to a person (a deeply-rooted fear of the outside world cannot be overcome in mere hours).

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Mini-Review: Blake Crouch – Dark Matter

darkmatter.jpg

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
out of 5 stars

—Minor spoilers ahead—

A word I  came across in a lot of reviews of this: mindbending.
People seem to think this is the weirdest book they’ve read in a long time. I simply don’t get it. The story is completely linear and you can pretty much see what’s coming around page 50. The only reason I kept going was because I was hoping for some twists and turns that would take me completely by surprise. Well, that never happened.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a bad book. Not at all. It’s an interesting and suspenseful thriller. I just think that nothing in this book is a new thought; it has all been done before in some way or other. String theory and all that multiverse stuff seems to be a bit of a hype right now and it actually is a cool subject for a thriller – if it’s done well. “Dark Matter” to me fell completely flat – it was all too linear and the solutions were way too easy.

If you really want to read a story that makes you go “wtf?!” every few pages, I’d recommend The Raw Shark Texts or The End of Mr Y or House of Leaves.

 

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2016 – a reading year in review

Not unlike the previous year, 2016 has been filled with changes and new achievements for me.
First of all, this was my first year of being a fully-fledged bookseller with my own section to manage and all-new responsibilities. This, of course, influenced my reading habits quite a bit – I had to read outside my comfort zone. Which means hat I read a lot more middle grade and YA books than I would normally have done.

Also, I got my driver’s licence in May!
And no longer using public transportation seriously cut into my reading time. I did, however, find a new appreciation for audiobooks and listened to a few on my daily drives.

Apart from the usual Goodreads stuff, this year I used a really neat spreadsheet (created by booktuber Brock/Let’s Read) in order to track my reading activity.
So, let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

  • In 2016 I read a total of 58 books making up 17,171 pages in total.
  • I surpassed my Goodreads reading challenge by eight books.
  • Even though I own two different ebook readers 76% of the books I read were physical copies.
  • I tend to read more books by female authors (67%).
  • My busiest reading months were January and November and I tend to buy a lot more books when I don’t have time to read.

These were my favourites (i.e. five-star-reviews):

It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite since these eight are all awesome in their individual way, but Sylvain Neuvel’s “Sleeping Giants” comes really close to being the winner of 2016! Such a cool narrative and great characters and that twist at the end! Also, giant robot parts buried all around the planet? What’s not to love?

28 of the 58 books I deemed four- or five-star-worthy, which is quite a good average in my opinion. I think that has to do with the fact that I don’t trudge on through every single book I read. I do not HAVE TO finish everything I start, so I have a lot more time to read really really great books!

However, there still are a few losers this year… books I’ve finished but absolutely didn’t like. The first of the two top spots in this category is taken by V.E. Schwab’s  “A Gathering of Shadows”, the second book to the Shades of Magic series. It simply could not hold my attention because it was too long by a few hundred pages and did nothing for me plotwise. The disappointment is completed by the fact that I absolutely loved the first book in the series and now I’m pretty sure I won’t read the upcoming final publication.
The second “bad one” to stand out is by widely-loved German author Benedict Wells. “Vom Ende der Einsamkeit” (roughly translates to “About the end of loneliness”) was a pseudo-literary snoozefest and in my opinion a rather typical specimen of the kind of books that make it on the German bestseller list.

All in all, 2016 was a pretty good reading year. I’ll spend the rest of it finishing “The Fate of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen (which I absolutely love, by the way).

And my bookish resolution for 2017 is to write a lot more reviews. 🙂

 

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Review: Han Kang – The Vegetarian

thevegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
out of stars

This novel made me really uncomfortable. I’m not saying it’s bad or badly written. I quite liked the sparse language and the weird premise.

You won’t be surprised if I tell you that this is not a book about vegetarianism. It’s about a woman who decides to no longer eat meat because of a dream she had. She does so in a society where eating meat is not only the cultural norm but the only choice.
It’s also a novel about the way we perceive the people close to us and how we often claim to know their innermost motivations and beliefs – their true selves.

What I really liked about “The Vegetarian” is how the aforementioned decision and its consequences are described by three different narrators giving the reader three different versions of the protagonist and her motives. The way the representation of the eponymous vegetarian changes according to each narrator (her husband, her brother-in-law, her sister) makes it clear that the notion we have of the people we love is not always true.

Now what’s the uncomfortable part? I can hardly put a finger on it, and maybe it’s the translation or that I personally lack the cultural context. But a lot of the scenes made me cringe. Most of all Han Kang’s descriptions of the physical. The way she writes sex scenes reminded me a lot of Murakami (close focus on genitalia or nipple).

The more I think about this, the more I believe that this was done on purpose. Anything to do with the body (the flesh, so to speak) is supposed to be disgusting and not appealing – even through the eyes of the meat-eating narrators. So it’s probably a good thing that I reacted the way I did. I stick with my three star rating, though because I still thought that whole plot fell a bit flat. Even though this is a fairly short novel I think it would’ve worked better as a short story.

Oh but will you look at that gorgeous cover!

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