Monthly reads: October 2021

 

First monthly reads post on the new blog, yeah! I used to post those ones on my anime blog, but from now on I'll be putting them here. Anyway, October was a pretty good reading month - I tried to read some slightly spooky things in the run-up for Halloween and enjoyed most of them! (By the way, the books not shown on the photo are ebooks as I obviously couldn't take a picture of those.

Hannibal Rising (Thomas Harris)

First off, I haven't watched the classic Hannibal movies or read any book of the original trilogy yet. However, I have at least watched the Hannibal TV series, and that's why I started being interested in the books, too. (Fun fact: I watched the TV series last October, but I never mentioned it to anyone in real life...days later my mum suddenly gave me this book and told me she bought it because it might interest me. Quite scary, that. Even more so because my mum wouldn't normally buy me a book about a serial killer even if I would politely ask her to. Which made me seriouly wonder if she reads my blog.) So, this is a prequel story about how Hannibal Lecter became the person (and cannibal) we know. I actually liked reading this origin story. I don't know whether someone who already read the other books would think differently – actually, I do know from some reviews I saw: they do – but from my point of view the story made sense. People might say that giving Hannibal a sympathetic backstory takes something away from the fascination of the character. Maybe they are right, but I still wouldn't necessarily agree. Sure, if it were a sappy story about how a entirely normal little boy turned into a cruel killer because of some traumatic event from his past...no, that really doesn't sound like Hannibal Lecter at all. But I got something different from the story: how a boy with a brilliant mind descends into darkness instead of stepping into the light and being recognised as a genius on the field of medicine, for example. (I'm aware that sounded a bit melodramatic. But that actually sort of fits the subject, I think!) I did enjoy reading about that, and it made me look forward to watching (or reading) the original trilogy one day.

Die Chronik der Unsterblichen 1: Am Abgrund (Wolfgang Hohlbein)

I usually enjoy Wolfgang Hohlbein's books. He's not one of my absolute favourite author, but his stories are usually really thrilling and just the right kind of book to read if I want to take my mind off real life. And once again, I wasn't disappointed. This book is the first volume in a long-running historical fantasy series, which is the reason why it mostly served as a prologue for a longer story and introduced a cast of characters we will probably meet again later on. Also, I did recognise some tropes from the author's other books – for example, the relationship between Andrej and Frederic reminded me a lot of a similar dynamic between two characters from his book 'Thor'. Still, it was already plenty entertaining and I'm curious about where the story will lead the main character and also us readers.

Seventy Two Virgins (Boris Johnson)

Oh my. That was...bad. And to make two things entirely clear from the beginning: no, I don't like Boris Johnson and no, I didn't expect this to be any good – quite the contrary, actually. And yet I still got disappointed. I thought there might still be some fun to be had in reading this book, in a sort of 'ha-ha, I can't believe the guy who wrote this shit got elected as PM of the United Kingdom' way. If that makes any sense. What definitely didn't make any sense was the book. I don't know, but the people who compared this to the writings of P.G. Wodehouse might have been drunk, because...this book was neither funny nor witty while the Wodehouse books are definitely both funny and witty. And yes, I tried to forget who wrote this. It was still bad. I have to add that I think I even got what he wanted to do with the plot: lots of seperate plotlines which converge at a certain highlight point of the entire thing, where everything gets resolved and one of all those losers turns out to be a hero. Or something like that. Just that it didn't work. I didn't care about those people at all, and not even lenghty explanations about their past and motivations could change this. Seriously, it was so obvious how he tried to paint the British member of the terror gang as basically just a poor guy who got mislead by the evil Arabs – while also heaping on him because he was also some antisocial deadbeat who basically just wasted taxpayers money through his sheer existence. Add some more extra casual racism and sexism plus some semi-funny puns on every second page and well, now that sounds the BJ we all know and love. Or hate. Or love to hate. I really don't know anymore. Nevertheless, I would still say reading this book was at least worth something, because it made me feel better about my own writing. I mean, seeing how even bad books can get published makes me feel less anxious about whether the quality of my fanfictions is good enough. At least I don't charge money for those, even if they aren't exactly literature!

Britty Britty Bang Bang (Hugh Dennis)

A while ago I bought a few books written by British comedians, partially because I just really like the author or also because some nice people on Tumblr responded with lots of recommendations when I asked them for Britcom-related books. This one here fits in the former category because Hugh Dennis is one of my favourite panelists from both Mock the Week and Taskmaster. And I was even pleasantly surprised by the book, because I also learned some new things about Britain while having fun reading an entertaining book. That's just how I like it!

Carmilla (J. Sheridan Le Fanu)

I initially downloaded this short novel because one reviewer called it the superior vampire story when compared to Dracula. And I couldn't really believe that, because...well, everyone knows Dracula, but Carmilla? Not so much. (I knew her from the smartphone game Fate/Grand Order. Yes, being a fan of anime and games does have some benefits!) However, having read both stories I have to say....I entirely agree with that reviewer! I just really enjoyed Carmilla, and I can't believe that this story is actually even older than Dracula because it felt so...fresh? Modern? I can't really put it in words, I think. I mean, a story about a lesbian vampire preying on young girls? That sounds like something straight from some of today's B-movie horror flicks! However, there obviously isn't anything even remotely similar to a sex scene in the novel (well, I'm aware that a vampire's bite is basically a metaphor for a sexual act, but I think you get my meaning) and so this isn't a cheap horror thrill, but a really interesting and at times chilling and thrilling read. The only thing I liked not as much was the ending because it felt somewhat rushed and almost made me lose interest. But that didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the story and I would still absolutely recommend it to anyone who would be interested in reading a classic vampire story.

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

I already mentioned Dracula, so...well, you already know that it's not my favourite classic vampire novel. Don't get me wrong, there were things I greatly enjoyed about it. The beginning of the story and the first part set in Dracula's castle were just great and I was curious to see what would happened next. Also, the parts about Renfield's strange obsessions and also Lucy's story were intriguing. However, everything felt just way too lenghty. Sometimes nothing meaningful happened for many pages and especially the middle part after Lucys death felt somehow dreadful – not because of Dracula's doing, mind you. The ending part turned out to be more interesting, but I don't think I'll ever feel the need to re-read this story, if I'm entirely honest. And I think it is worth mentioning that I haven't watched any film adaption of Dracula before reading the book. So I guess fans of the various adaptions might not like the actual book at all. Still, it was interesting to read about the origins of one of the most famous literary and pop-cultural figures of all time.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Everyone knows Frankenstein's Monster, and many people actually confuse the creator (=Frankenstein) with his creation (=the Monster). Then again, are they really wrong about thinking that this is a story about a monster called Frankenstein? Because I for one absolutely came to loathe the guy during the course of the book. I mean, creating a initially gentle yet ugly 'monster' just to suddenly realise that he possibly did a bad thing and thus leaving the monster entirely to its own devices – only to revile his creation at their next meeting which happened many months later. Still, the monster doesn't even assault him like the proper ugly evil bastard it's supposed to be (if he's ugly, then he has to be evil, right?) and tries to explain his motivations and the way it lived to far. Well, at least then our dashing hero sort of begrudgingly pretends to understand the monster's plea and agrees to make a companion for him. (Not without lots of whining though because he feels so bad about it! Seriously, I've never seen a more whiny protagonist.) After another meeting with the monster he suddenly decides to say 'fuck it, I'm not gonna do this' instead and is subsequently really shocked that the monster exacts his revenge against his creator. The rest of the book was almost funny to me, to be honest. The wedding night scene almost made me laugh: 'I fear that my wife might be in danger, so I'll just waltz around our house and leave her entirely unprotected in our bedroom!', just to be really surprised and shocked to find her dead when he came back. I'm sorry, but that was funny. Then more whining ensued, before he finally decided to man up a bit and chase his nemesis literally to the ends of the world: the Arctic. That also where he tells his sob story to the captain of a ship who rescued him – and the poor captain basically seems to fall in love with his new acquantance, judging from the way he talked about him. I just love how Frankenstein repeatedly claimed that the monster possessed huge powers of persuasion and no one should believe it when it talks about its sad story. I think he mixed up things there: actually he was the slimy smooth-talker himself, because he was so persuasive that he basically calmed down a bunch of mutinous sailors in mere minutes. The monster on the other hand never got a fair chance to persuade anyone because of how ugly it was. So that's that, I'd say.

Anyway, I guess this whole rant sounded a lot like I didn't like the book. And that's not true, I actually liked it quite a bit. Maybe because I sympathised with the monster in some way. Even though I'm obviously not a artificially created giant person (I promise), I know how it feels like to be judged based on wrong first impressions, always being the odd one out and thus starting to feel a certain kind of resentment towards other people. And I don't think I'm the only person who can. Frankenstein, on the other hand...well, I rarely ever hated a book protagonist as much as I hated him. Which is an achievement in itself, I think! But the douchebag still didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book, so...that definitely was a classic worth reading, even though I fear that I lack the deeper understanding of literature to properly analyse all the themes used in the novel.

Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (Mark Gatiss)

A pretty enjoyable novelisation of a pretty enjoyable episode, I'd say. Sure, the plot was pretty crazy and sometimes a bit over the top, but I liked the Victorian setting a lot and the story had just the right amount of craziness I enjoy about a Doctor Who story. The latest stories in the TV series are sometimes a bit over the top for my tastes, I have to say. But well, there's always the possibility of rewatches or revisiting favourite stories via the novelisations!

Thank you, Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse)

I read a collection of all Jeeves and Wooster short stories at the beginning of this year, so it's quite odd that it still took me this long to actually finish this first novel about their hilarious adventures. Well, maybe because I'm determined to save up the Wodehouse novels as a cure-all measure for bad reading slumps. The short stories were basically the only thing I could still read when I faced my worst ever reading slump, and I'll be eternally grateful for that. I think I maybe liked the short stories a little bit more than this full-length adventure, but it was still really, well...the bee's knees would a fitting expression! It's not like I had any real doubts, but I'll definitely go on reading the entire series now. And I'll also want to take a look at PG Wodehouse's other books – good thing that there are so many of them!

A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia (Clara Benson)

I only read this because I could download the ebook version for free, but I actually enjoyed it a lot! I'm just really weak for stories set tin 1920s/1930s England, whether it's a crime novel, a comedy story or really anything. This one falls in the first category and while it wasn't exactly one of Agatha Christie's books it was still highly enjoyable. I might buy the next volumes in the series too, if I ever feel the need for some light fun reading because that's exactly what I got from this novel!

The woes of being an ace reader

Kind of a stupid title, I know. Sounds like I want to brag with my great reading skills, haha.

I'm not sure whether that's exactly the thing someone would expect to read on a book/media blog, but...apparently it's Ace Week/Asexual Awareness Week right now. And since I'm sort of part of that spectrum too, I'd like to write down some mostly incoherent thoughts regarding my own experiences with sexuality/romance in connection with fictional stories. (I say sort of because I haven't entirely figured out where I actually stand - I thought of myself as straight for most of my life and I'm still in the process of finding out the actual truth. Then again, finding yourself is a never-ending process anyway, isn't it?)

Er, well. Where to start? Well, I was never overly fond of love stories. Sure, there are a huge part of every kind of media (and I don't mind the occasional romance side-plot), but I rarely ever felt the need to read a story mostly about two people falling in love. Or rather, never. That doesn't mean I haven't tried. But even though I did enjoy some romance-themed books, it was never the actual love thing which intrigued me. I mainly read some light historical romances and it was always either the setting or the humour that made them feel like a worthwhile read. Okay, seeing how the characters slowly fall in love can be intriguing, but I don't really care about what happens afterwards!

Oddly enough, I always kind of enjoyed watching fanservice-heavy anime and I also didn't shy away from erotic content in novels. Though once again, it was mostly for different reasons than one would expect. The fanservice anime were usually pretty funny and I sort of liked the aesthetics of busty anime girls - in an entirely non-sexual context, though. I did watch and read a fair share of e.g. boys/girls love, ecchi and sometimes even hentai stuff back in the say, I have to admit that. And the novels...I mostly enjoyed either the historical setting, or in some other cases, the urban fantasy part of it. Though I have almost entirely grown out of reading those, because they are mostly supposed to be read for the love and sex part. And well, if I don't care about that, I might as well look elsewhere for my occasional fix of vampire and werewolf stories, I guess?

I'm still writing fanfiction about some my favourite ships though. I didn't go into truly erotic territory yet, but I'm determined to at least try at some point.  But that's ultimately just a fantasy too, like the content I'm consuming. So...I'm fine with that. It's not like I mind erotic content, it's just that it doesn't really give me what it might give to other people? And having a 'normal' relationship (including sex and everything) is something I can't really imagine for myself, so...it feels like yet another trope from a fictional story for me. And so it's not something special, not something I can or want to connect to on a deeper emotional level. It's basically really just one of many tropes, and not necessarily my most favourite one. 

Another thing that made me realise that I might perceive romance in a different way than others was when I read Persuasion by Jane Austen. And contrary to apparently 95% of all other readers, I absolutely didn't find the story romantic or sweet in any way. When someone doesn't like the book, they are usually told that they aren't old enough yet to truly understand the love story between the heroine and her returning lover. Well, I was 28 when I read the book - would that be old enough for a proper understanding? I don't know. And maybe it just wasn't my kind of book, but I just absolutely couldn't see what was so romantic about a young woman not taking a chance to flee from her life of suppression. Sure, she got her second chance, but I didn't feel with the couple at all. Why would I care about them finally getting together if their love was so shallow in the first place? I'm not sure whether anyone will even read this post, but a thing I am sure about is that most of the reader probably have a deeper understanding of the book. But lacking that, I can just judge from how I felt about it. Or maybe rather that I didn't feel anything about it. So, what is it now: am I really just too immature to get their love? Or is there just a difference in perception and that's the reason why I am unable to connect to the characters on an emotional level? Don't get me wrong, I get why the story would appeal to many people on a logical level, but I still can't feel that appeal myself. (Oh, and I think I should add that I read Northanger Abbey and half of Sense and Sensibility and enjoyed both, especially the former one. So it's not that I dislike Jane Austen's stories in general.)

Well. So far, so good. It took me years until I - it was probably on social media - first heard about asexual and aromantic people. When I read more and more about it, I started to think about how all of this actually sounded a lot like my own experience. Romance never played a big part in my life. Even back during my school days I never got why everyone seemed to be forever after finding their next boyfriend/girlfriend after a break up. And I still don't get it until now. But maybe I wasn't just a late bloomer, or maybe I had not written off ever having a relationship just because I'm unattractive? By now I'm pretty sure that I don't feel much sexual attraction - if any at all. Which doesn't mean that I don't think of some people as really beautiful, or that I'm not attracted to them in any way. It does lack the sexual context though.

You know what does sum up my relationship with attraction really well, actually? It's probably a pretty bad comparison, but I mean this here:

 


The fact that Nero from Fate/Extra is one of my favourite characters ever makes this even better, but even putting that aside the part about loving beautiful people just speaks to me. I'm aware it is most likely meant in a sexual context here as Nero is usually considered bisexual (both the character and also the historical figure, as far as I know), but I feel this line in an entirely non-sexual way. I felt physical/aesthetic and also emotional attraction to many people of various genders before. I just don't want to kiss or have sex with them, or really anything in that direction. I also sometimes feel romantic attraction, but that happens exclusively towards men.

I'm still not entirely sure about anything. I don't know if I just don't care about relationships and sex and all that as much as any other random person does, or if I'm entirely unable to ever understand 'normal' relationships. I'm also aware that every kind of person of any gender, sexuality and/or romantic orientation might also dislike romance in fiction. And I'm actually curious what their reasons would look like! But I for one think that for me personally it is about the asexuality thing. Like I said, love, sex and relationship aren't something I relate with very much, so...it's not something I actively look for in a story. Even if I also don't mind content like that!

Having said all that, I personally don't even look for representation of ace/aro people and relationships in the media. I heard that there are some (most likely YA) books with such protagonists, but it usually isn't a reason big enough for me to read those books. (Having said that, I recently heard that a manga with an ace protagonist got announced for an English release and I am curious about this one!) But even if I might not be reading them, I still think it is a good thing that such books exist. Being represented in the media and in fictional stories is a good way to make people feel valid, which is always an important thing. I mean, it's a fact that we are living in an amatonormative society which makes it hard for anyone to be confident about not wanting a romantic relationship, for example. That's not even just a problem for ace/aro people, but they are probably more likely to be confronted with the issue. So there's still a lot of work to do and normalising any kind of platonic and non-romantic relationships would be a really important step to get there.

And to get a bit too needlessly personal in the end of this rant: Maybe all of this sounded like I'm totally fine, but... Frankly, I'm not happy with how things are. Like, I guess there's no way around the feeling that I'm just not 'normal' in that aspect, so I might as well own up to it and accept the facts, but...it's quite annoying, sitting between the chairs like that. Straight people usually seem to tell ace people that they 'just didn't find the right person yet', and people in LGBT spaces often aren't too happy about aces (especially heteroromantic ones) invading those spaces, as they are basically seen as straight people without a sex drive. I absolutely get why they might feel uncomfortable, but I still think bonding over shared experiences of having to face prejudices etc should be possible? Well, I might be wrong. Anyway, all of this can be quite discouraging. I personally had to deal with the feeling of just 'not being enough' and not being able to fulfill everyone's expectations through my entire life, and me being unable to have a normal relationship is just another part of it. So no, I'm not fine at all, actually. I basically had someone tell me that I didn't need to be surprised about people staying away from me if I wasn't open for a normal relationship. I had people tell me that I'm unable to love and thus weird, and stuff like that. I still don't think there is something wrong with being asexual (and/or aromantic), and I sincerely hope that other people can embrace that identity and maybe even be proud of who they are! As of yet I just can't do the same, and who knows if I ever will. I couldn't say. (Well, now I have ended that post on a pretty depressing note without even intending to do so. But yeah, like I said, it was mostly a rant anyway. Sorry.)

Reading goals: a conundrum

 


About time for me to finally start writing about reading, right? Right? (Or more like, starting to write any kind of blogpost in the first place!)

It's a bit weird, but I really enjoy having a fixed goal for something - even my hobbies - but I also hate to put pressure on myself when something is supposed to be done for fun. I'm absolutely not good at dealing with pressure, but a little bit of it helps to get things done, I guess. So it was quite difficult to do both things at a same time and I often enough failed to meet my set goals - probably one of the reasons why my to-read pile seems to be steadily growing in size. That's why I sort of alternated between having a reading list and just picking up random books from my piles over the last few years. The only kind of goal I set myself was a certain number of books to finish at the end of the year, which was about the only thing I managed to do (along with reading at least one English books every month, but by now I read more English than German books anyway...). But I do wonder: sometimes I feel like this kind of method only ever led me to reading really easy and/or thin books. The thicker and more difficult ones are usually lying around for years, even though I am very curious about those ones, too. There's this complete edition of Shakespeare's works I bought like five years ago, or the complete works of Oscar Wilde...or many other books who shared their fate for quite a while now.

So instead of all the easy (though admittedly very entertaining) stuff I wanted to start reading more classics and more important books in general, but how does one get around to doing that? Where do I start? There's just too much I want to - and should - read, so I felt sort of overwhelmed. Well, and now there are those list with a hundred or so books everyone should have read. I never quite liked those, but maybe they would be a good starting point? Still, I could never decide on one, because there was always something missing. (And yes, I am aware that I could also read books that weren't included on such a list, but well, you know...)

However, I found this list a while ago and while it's significantly longer than the other usual ones, it also has quite a few interesting books on it - books I already had on my plan-to-read list anyway. Also it seems to have a nice balance between well-known classics and newer books. So I thought I might as well look into all the other books too. It seems like the list is mostly English-language centred, but that is fine with me as I'm mostly curious about those anyway. (I have to admit that I've already read a lot more english, japanese and chinese classics than german ones. I never really read much of that at school because honestly, my school sucked and hence I'm quite the uneducated idiot, haha.)

So that's some kind of long-term goal which could serve as a nice motivation to finally work on getting through the more serious stuff. Oddly enough, the thought of a list with thousand items on it doesn't sound overwhelming at all - I sometimes just don't know how my brain works. Well, of course I probably won't read every last of the 1000 books, but I'm at least determined to have a look at all the stuff on the list. Especially the comedy, crime and sci-fi/fantasy sections could be really interesting. And I'm really looking forward to discovering lots of great books, authors and possible new favourite stories!

An introduction...sort of

Well, well, well. The last time I started a blog was 12 years ago, so I've got no real idea how to go about this. I've got no idea how this'll work out at all - story of my life, honestly. For now I have just planned some posts about certain British things I really enjoy. And those posts will be most likely called 'The Anxious Anglophile' for no certain reason. Well, for the reason that I'm quite anxious and also an anglophile, though those things aren't necessarily related to each other ;)