Monthly reads: July 2022

 


Well...I thought last month was bad, but this one is clearly worse. I can't even remember the last time I finished just one puny book in a month...

Romanze östlich des Sumidagawa (Nagai Kafu)

At least that one book was really good, though. I liked especially how it made me feel like I was actually there, seeing old Japan through the protagonist's eyes or exploring 1930s Tokyo together with him. I guess this won't be my last book by Nagai Kafu, although I need to check out whether there are more translations of his works. I don't think there's all that much available in German, so I might need to go for English, if possible.

Monthly reads: June 2022

 


I don't feel like I've actually read a single book this month, but at least I managed to finish these three. Not very impressive though.

U2532: Bis zum bitteren Ende (Erik Maasch)

I kind of enjoy reading this kind of German WWII submarine stories, even though I'm not especially into marine warfare. (I am interested in WWII though, but I know a lot more about tanks and planes than ships and subs.) This one was also pretty entertaining, as it showed the final days and hours of the war and how everything ended for them when it had in fact ended long ago. It's not especially deep or anything (no pun intended, although it would be a good one!), but it's a decent read. I'll read more of it if I'll occasionally get some of the books for cheap.

Die schlafenden Schönen (Yasunari Kawabata)

Haven't read japanese literature in ages (or that's how it feels, would need to look it up) and this one was a good place to start again. I'd say that Kawabata is one of my favourite Japanese authors of the 20th century as there wasn't a single one I didn't like among the books of his I've read so far. This story about old men and sleeping young women was oddly mesmerising and entertaining, even though it also felt wrong to gaze at the 'sleeping beauties' through the eyes of Eguchi, one of those very men. Nevertheless, it made me feel all sorts of things and it's also thought-provoking and that's what I like most about Kawabata's stories.

Für die Freiheit sterben (James M. McPherson)

I have been reading on this huge book for literal ages and I'm so glad I'm done now. It was an interesting read, but sometimes I got confused by all those names of people and battles. Also, the blatant racism of the olden times was sometimes pretty hard to stomach. So, not an especially pleasant read, but still very good.

 

Monthly reads: May 2022

 


Not many books this month. I'm wondering how I actually managed to finish those four books...

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation vol. 1 (Mo Xiang Tong Xiu)

I watched the donghua. I watched the drama adaption called 'The Untamed'. As of yet I even listened to a few audio drama episodes and I'm planning to finish this version, too. And yet I apparently never quite understood or noticed many smaller aspects of the story. Like the fact that Lan Zhan noticed pretty much immediately that the young man he was dealing with was in fact not some random weak lunatic from the Mo family, but rather no other than Wei Wuxian. (That's not the only thing I never quite got in the adaptions, but probably the biggest one.) Also, it's probably due to Chinese censorship laws, but even just this first volume of the story already advanced their relationship so much more than the complete drama and donghua. So that's why I'm especially happy about us Westerners being able to enjoy the original work now. It's just that good. Well, at least if you ask me and the many other fans of the series and the author's other works! Oh, and I also do like the translation. I heard that there were quite a few complaints about some things not being accurate, but...I couldn't really agree with some of the 'translation errors' others were pointing out. Those scenes made perfect sense to me.

Der begrabene Riese (Kazuo Ishiguro)

I enjoyed this a lot, which surprised me a bit. Then again, it's the book I actually wanted to read first when I started looking out for Ishiguro's works in bookshops and bargain bins etc. So I guess we've come full circle now! Anyway, I liked how the book was partially an entertaining historical fantasy story (with dragons, knights and people going on a journey – whee!), but it was also very obviously an Ishiguro book. It was a bit like 'The Unconsoled', but way less confusing. Well, the ending was a bit confusing, and I'm still not sure about Axl's role in his earlier life. Honestly, at one point I expected him to actually be the aged King Arthur, haha. Anyway, I guess that one's one of my favourite books from the author, too. Although nothing beats his first two Japanese-set books in my opinion!

Waffenschmuggel (Eric Ambler)

This one was a bit of a bore at times (the entire part about the annoying woman and the tourist couple...frankly, I expected the woman to pop up later again and ruin things or something!) and the way some characters are portrayed are pretty outdated. Still, it was a quick read and some parts were actually a lot of fun. Not my favourite from this author though.

Das Santa-Lucia-Rätsel (C.H. Guenter)

Well, I guess this book could be considered something like a penny dreadful. Cheap, but fun entertainment – if you're ready to enjoy stuff like that and switch off your brain for a moment while reading, that is. Some plot elements probably wouldn't make any sense if your thought about them for too long and yet I really enjoyed reading the book. I was also quite surprised that issues like global warming and the lack of food and water for millions of people especially in Africa were brought up here. And not in a derisive way, but shown as actual issues humanity has to deal with at some point. That's another thing I really liked about the book!

Monthly reads: April 2022

 

Not 'digressing' all that much, am I? Well, but here's at least another uninspired monthly book post. Maybe I'll finally find the motivation to write about something else. It's not like there aren't other things I could talk about...

The Complete Mapp & Lucia Vol. 1 (E.F. Benson)

I didn't actually read the entire book, just the 'Lucia in London' part because I already knew the first two volumes of E.F.Benson's six-volume series. I think I've read them last year, so there wasn't no need to read them again. Well, not yet, because I love the series and really might want to re-read it at some point. Anyway, Lucia in London was once again highly enjoyable. Before I started reading I was a little bit afraid that we would see less of the people of Riseholme due to Lucia's temporary move to London. That wasn't the case though and both the London and Riseholme parts were simply delicious. I'll probably take my time with the next three volumes, because the books are just wonderful comfort reading and I need to stock up on books like that for reading slumps!

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

I guess basically everyone knows this book (or possibly a film adaption) at least by name. Although...maybe it's just me being an uncultured swine, but I had no idea what it was actually about. (Well, some bloke called Gatsby. Duh.) Well, it's basically about how rich people often fuck up other people's lives and don't even care about the ramifications of their actions. So, while I had a hard time actually liking any of the characters in the book, I quite liked the book itself. A pretty nice, quick and interesting read.

A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)

Bah, I tried so hard to like this one and there were parts of it that were highly enjoyable. But in the end...well, it's not my favourite funny book ever, that much is for sure. I get that the main character Ignatius isn't supposed to be an especially likeable sort of chap, but he got pretty much unbearable after a while. And not in a funny way, honestly. Just thinking of it now...I never want to hear the word 'valve' ever again and people who read the book might know why. But like I said, it wasn't all bad and some of the side plots and characters were genuinely funny. I also sort of liked the open ending. So, well, I don't get the high praise for this book because I thought it to be pretty mediocre in the end, but at least I don't regret reading it or anything. Putting the valve issue aside, that is.

Solaris (Stanislaw Lem)

Well, I definitely didn't like this one. Maybe I shouldn't have read the German translation (I heard that one isn't actually all that good and some sentences definitely felt odd and/or clunky...), but I genuinely wonder if the English translation would've made me like the book more. I very much doubt it though. I know that Solaris is one of the most influential examples of sci-fi literature, and I have to admit that some ideas were pretty interesting. What would happen if humanity were to meet a strange foreign kind of possibly intelligent lifeform, but they had literally no way of communicating with that lifeform? What is is that makes a human human? Sadly the execution of those ideas was less good. I actually had to skip some pages because the narrator was droning on about some scientific theories which had absolutely no relevance to the plot. It was also quite hard to grasp the character's motivations – their actions often seemed entirely random to me. So, to sum it up: it's a book I read because it's a book people interested in sci-fi should've read, but it's not something I would have picked up purely for fun or entertainment.

Daisy Miller & The Turn of the Screw (Henry James)

Even though I'm regularly watching English-language news and TV shows, prefer reading English books over translated ones and write a blog and fanfics in English...this book genuinely made me doubt myself. Henry James seems to use an ungodly amount of words to explain even the simplest thing, and that's just something I don't enjoy in a book. I had a really hard time reading and sometimes even understanding both stories – and maybe that was also the reason why I didn't really enjoy them either. Especially The Turn of the Screw: what's with that ending? What did even happen there? And even without the ending, why is that story considered to be one of the most famous spooky stories in classic literature? I was genuinely more creeped out by the writing style than the actual story, haha...

Maus (Art Spiegelman)

I actually didn't buy this book because I saw the news stories about some overzealous American education board banning it from being read at school because it was on my list anyway due to the Guardian 1000, but...that was the reason why I had to wait quite a while until I could get my hands on a reprint copy. I hesitate to say I enjoyed this one (because how could anyone possibly enjoy any kind of media about the Holocaust...), but still, I genuinely liked it a lot. Banning books is wrong anyway, but banning this books is especially stupid because a comic actually seems to be a great way to explain the horrors of the Nazi era especially to younger and/or more sensitive people. I personally doubt whether I could stand reading an actual book about a survivor's story, but the comic made it quite easy while still bringing the point across very well. Also, the characterisation of all humans as various kinds of animals worked really good, I think. Anyway, I wish we would've read Maus back at my school. There even is a German edition and it would've been so much more interesting and shocking than the dry, emotionless facts we learned at school.

Auf phantastischen Pfaden (anthology, various authors)

I love the stories by Karl May, and I love fantasy books. That's why I was pretty thrilled when I stumbled across this book because it combines both things. And while – as is always the case with anthologies – not all stories were that good, I enjoyed reading it quite a bit. One thing I noticed though: I don't actually need the fantasy part, I just want to delve into the universe of Karl May's famous characters again. It's about time for a re-read...

Das Star Trek Universum (Ralph Sander)

Earlier this year I finally got into Star Trek. So far I watched the original series and the first two series of The Next Generation, and I love both. This book is sort of a compendium about exactly that part of the Trek universe, so it was a pretty interesting read with lots of information for me. I would've preferred for the author to leave his personal opinion aside more often, though. Okay, so you don't like it if females write fanfictions about their favourite pairings from the show and that's fine (more or less), but why would I as the reader care about that? It's even more ironic looking at how he repeatedly complained about how intolerant some Trek fans are in other parts of the book...

Monthly reads: March 2022

 


Too much german stuff this month, I think. By now I really prefer reading in English, especially because that's the original language of most books I read anyway, but...there are still a lot of translated books sitting on my shelves and I just can't buy all of those again. So...I'll just slowly get rid of them by reading them!

Die drei Sonnen (Cixin Liu)

This is the first volume of Cixin Liu's most famous trilogy, the book series with which reviewers keep comparing his other stories. Of course everyone seems to prefer this one over his short stories, but you know what? For me it's the other way round. I loved most of his short stories – yes, there's a lot of scientific stuff going on and I didn't understand a word of most of it, but yet the stories never felt overwhelming. This book is taking it a bit too far, though. I feel like I would need to be a scientist to fully appreciate some of the plot points, but alas, I'm no scientist. Don't get me wrong though, I liked the story idea and I'm still curious about the next two books. Hopefully I'll like them better, but I will probably still prefer the short stories.

Die Maske des Dimitrios (Eric Ambler)

I've only read one other book by the author before this one and really loved it, so...the stakes were pretty high, I guess. Thankfully I did like this book quite a bit, too. The story was pretty endearing and I especially liked the earlier part with the main char searching for clues about Dimitrios' earlier life. The later developments came a bit as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. Looking at the other books by Eric Ambler I read this month I'd say this one is my second favourite so far.

Der Fall Deltschev (Eric Ambler)

And this one is probably number three on my list – both chronologically and regarding how much I liked it. At times I was a bit confused about the political situation in the fictitious Balkans country the book was set in, but the story was nevertheless really interesting. Sometimes the main character's action didn't feel entirely right to me, but at least everything worked out in the end, I guess. My favourite part was probably the sort of thought-provoking political intrigue stuff. I wondered how I would react if I were faced with the same situation as Deltschev...

Schirmers Erbschaft (Eric Ambler)

Not quite as good as the former two books, but still prett entertaining. The main char felt a bit bland, but I'd say that didn't matter too much as this wasn't the usual run-of-the-mill crime novel with a charismatic sleuth. And generally...I had a hard time liking or even caring for any of the characters. They just weren't that likeable, although I could at least understand the logical reasoning behind their behavior. Still, I enjoyed the book. Not my favourite one by the author, though.

Der dunkle Grenzbezirk (Eric Ambler)

So I did like the other three Eric Ambler books I've read this month, but I can't really say the same thing about this one. Apparently it was his very first published book. And well, the good thing is: I already know that he improved a lot. Even if some of his other main chars are kind of bland, they are still better than the 'boring professor who loses his memory and thinks he's an spy novel hero' guy from this book. Honestly, that guy made the whole book feel like a James Bond parody, but as it was written earlier than the Bond books that's not even possible. So maybe 007 is a parody on Conway Carruthers? I guess not, but I can see it! Well, I also didn't really enjoy the plot set in yet another fictional Eastern European country. He did that way better later on.

The Thin Man (Dashiell Hammett)

I didn't especially expect to like that book, but I really did. It was surprisingly immersive – America during the prohibition isn't exactly my favourite time in history, nor do I possess deeper knowledge of that time, but when I read the book I could just picture the setting the characters were living in pretty well. And even if it wasn't easy to like some of the characters, it was really easy to get interested in them and I occasionally found myself thinking 'I hope he isn't the murderer, that would be a shame' or something along those lines. Also, the solution came as a surprise...it did make sense though and it explained the title of the novel. I was wondering about that the entire time while reading the book!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

Well, there it is. The first candidate for my personal 'book of the year' category. I just loved that book so much. I rarely ever feel like a book should be longer than it actually is, but I wouldn't have minded another thousand pages in this case. It's not even like the book was full of action and thrills – quite the opposite actually because the storytelling was pretty slow and meandering at times. But that was exactly what I loved so much. I also immensely enjoyed the use of footnotes referring to other books about magic and magicians. Of course those books don't even exist in our boring mundane world without any magic, but that detail honestly made me feel like I was actually living in the same world as the characters. Oh, and I loved the combination of fantasy with really unique ideas about magic etc with the style and setting of a historical novel. Even better, it was even set during the Napoleonic Wars, and I love that era. Anyway, I don't think I'll manage to add anything meaningful here, so I'll stop. Sometimes it's just impossible to put love into proper words, I guess ;)

Orlando (Virginia Woolf)

An odd, yet really intriguing novel. My main reason for wanting to read it was the gender-changing main character Orlando – I couldn't even imagine how his sudden change from a Tudor-era nobleman to a modern woman would work out. But it really did, and it didn't even feel weird or anything. It felt just that that was just how things were supposed to be. And while there are obviously differences between men and women, a person is still first and foremost themselves, no matter the gender. Well, I think I'm sounding really stupid there, but the book still just really impressed me. Looking at today's discussion about trans issues and gender roles it feels odd that a book written almost one hundred years ago has more modern takes on those issues than many bigots living today in the year 2022. Whew. Sometimes I feel like humanity hasn't made progress at all.