22 Following

me reading books

reviews - quotes - thoughts

- crossposting here and on goodreads -

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell Somewhere between two and three stars, actually.

This is very well-written and I loved the idea of the nested narration. However, the plot of the stories themselves seemed rather boring and the magical realism was a bit too subtle to my liking.
The Raw Shark Texts - Steven Hall I have to hand it to the goodreads recommendations engine, this was a really good one! It was recommended to me on the basis that I liked The End of Mr. Y, which is one of my absolute favourites.
And in terms of weirdness The Raw Shark Texts come up a close second.

I was hoping for a bit more of a [excuse me] mindf*ck here but all in all it was great. Anyone interested in the system and connectedness of language and ideas, of concepts and reality, and of coding and decoding should read this. Apart from these rather weird things, it has suspense and love and more weirdness.

So, thank you goodreads, for showing me once again why I have been a member here for so long and why I keep coming back (several times a day)!
Mrs  Dalloway - Virginia Woolf The first time I read Mrs Dalloway I didn't really understand what it was about and what was so special about it. I gave one star and said I'd never read it again!

I re-read it. I changed my mind. Or maybe I was finally ready. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I now have a better understanding of the Modernism period.
So, this time it gets four stars.

Longer review to come...
UR - Stephen King UR is a really short novella that has been exclusively released for the amazon kindle.
The first few pages actually read like an advertisement for the kindle. We learn what a great device it is and that even university professors of English who love books can see the huge advantages a kindle has. Yes, Mr.King, we get it. It’s a great gadget and we don’t have to be afraid that it will replace our beloved books; and even if it does, it’s just so cool that we won’t even care!
Once the commercial break is over, however, the story becomes interesting. The kindle ordered by protagonist Wesley Smith is not like any other one; it gives the reader the possibility to access a kind of alternate literary reality – many different realities actually. These realities offer written material by every author there is and Smith is able to read unpublished – because in his reality unwritten – texts by various writers.

The plot is intriguing and of course there is the Stephen King mystery that keeps you reading. The novella left me wishing I had an awesome pink kindle that could access all the alternate material by Jane Austen and Scarlett Thomas and maybe even Stephen King. It’s a nice read if you have half an hour to fill and nothing else to do. It also was the first text by Stephen King that I was able to finish, probably because of its shortness.

By the way, I have not bought a kindle yet.
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan I love finding out that a hype is actually well-deserved. This is clearly the case here.
Julie & Julia: 365 Tage, 524 Rezepte und 1 winzige Küche - Julie Powell, Andrea Ott Julie Powell is a person I most certainly would not want to meet.

The book is not bad at all but Julie Powell comes off as a not very likable person. Her style is witty and entertaining but her whining and her obsession with sexuality didn’t really suit the story. While the whining and I’m-not-good-enough-for-anything-parts were only annoying, the times when she talks about sex and likens cooking to it range from out of place to plain disturbing I’m referring to the episode with her parents sex book. Yes, you read that correctly. Sex book.

However, once she’s done with these things and starts to talk about cooking, writing, her family and friends and Julia Child it gets interesting and actually entertaining.

All in all I would have much rather read the original blog entries (unfortunately the blog has been taken off the web fairly recently). The way this book is made up tends to be confusing at times because the author sums up several days (sometimes weeks) and recipes in one chapter and it’s easy to lose focus on where we are on the timeline of the experiment. Also sometimes it reads like a string of anecdote after anecdote and I got the feeling the blog entries would have been a bit more coherent.

Nevertheless it was a fast and fun read and the good parts were actually really good. Most people probably know that this book was made into a movie. The things I liked about the movie (the parts about cooking, about living in New York and about Julie’s friends and family) have their place in the book. These parts are well-written and more elaborate than a 2-hour movie allows. So in this case the book is recommendable.

The chapters are interwoven with the development of the relationship between Julia Child and her husband. How they met and fell in love and how she found her passion for cooking. Once again I have to refer to the movie. This was done much better on screen. In the book these short chapters tend to disrupt the story. I admit I only skimmed the last few Julia Child episodes because I just didn’t find them very interesting.

My advice is don’t read this book if you want to know about Julia Child. But read it if you like cooking, family stories and can tolerate women whining about turning thirty.

Question: Is it really this hard to get sugar cubes in the US? I was amazed by that fact...
Der letzte Schattenschnitzer - Christian von Aster Soviel vorweg: Ich habe es nicht geschafft dieses Buch komplett zu lesen. Ich bin kein großer Fan von Fantasy, aber ich mag es wenn alltäglichen Dingen Magie eingehaucht wird. In diesem Roman sind unsere Schatten mehr als nur das vom Licht erschaffene Abbild unserer selbst. Sie können Denken und beinhalten das Wissen tausender Jahre. Außerdem gibt es Menschen, die die Schatten beherrschen und kontrollieren können. Doch dieses Talent ist in unserer Zeit äußerst selten geworden. Jonas Mandelbrodt ist seit Hunderten von Jahren der erste Mensch, der die Gabe der Schattenmagie hat und von seinem eigenen Schatten in ihr unterrichtet wird. Soweit, so gut.

Leider kommt die Geschichte nicht richtig ins Rollen. Wer ist hier eigentlich der Protagonist? Jonas? Sein Schatten? Die Mitglieder des ominösen Rates? Keine der Figuren hat genug Tiefe um diese Rolle einnehmen zu können. Nach der Hälfte der knapp 300 Seiten war mir keine einzige der Figuren auch nur annähernd sympathisch und dass so spät in der Entwicklung der Geschichte immer noch neue und vermeintlich wichtige Charaktere eingeführt wurden machte das ganze nicht einfacher.
Nach 200 Seiten hab ich aufgegeben. Hundert Seiten vor Schluss sollte doch zumindest ein Spannungsbogen erkennbar sein. Zu viele Charaktere, zu viele Mysterien und nicht zuletzt zu viele Rechtschreib- bzw. Druckfehler. Autor und Lektor hätten gut daran getan sich noch ein paar Mal zusammen zu setzen um an Story und Rechtschreibung zu tüfteln.

Schade, denn die Idee hat mir, wie gesagt, gefallen. Und der Anfang war vielversprechend. Gut gelungen sind auch die Passagen aus dem fiktiven Alchima Umbarum John Dees. Leider ist die eigentliche Handlung dann doch etwas zu konfus ausgefallen und wenn dann auch noch ein Engel auftaucht, dann ist mir persönlich das alles etwas zu durcheinander.

Trotz allem handelt es sich bei diesem Roman sicherlich nicht im Schrott. Der Autor hat Talent zum Schreiben. Er hätte sich nur etwas mehr Gedanken um die Struktur seiner Geschichte machen sollen und seinen Figuren könnten ein wenig lebendiger sein.
Fazit: Leichte Unterhaltung für Fantasy-Fans.
Moral Disorder: and Other Stories - Margaret Atwood I am not a big fan of short stories in general. And I didn’t even know this was a collection of short stories because the blurb on the German edition (which I bought at a bargain!) did not make that very clear. After reading this I know why it failed to do so. This doesn’t feel like a collection of short stories at all. All stories deal with the same protagonist and her family. It has the feel of an episodic novel to it.

This was the first work by Atwood in a long time that wasn’t speculative fiction. Only once have I tried her other works before (The Robber Bride) and I didn’t like it then. After reading Moral Disorder I can only imagine that I wasn’t ready for her other works then. I was probably just too young to understand. I still haven’t reached the age of the protagonist who deals with pregnancy, aging, living with a married man… but I come to understand those fears and worries. Furthermore I have gained the ability to appreciate well-written fiction.

I read this one in German and I will never read Atwood in translation again. It’s not that it’s badly translated – not at all. But I feel like Atwood’s style is lost in translation and the Canadian/American cultural background tends to be blurred (translating “Raggedy Ann” into German doesn’t make much sense).

This collection/novel/whatever was beautiful and slightly depressing. It made me appreciate Margaret Atwood even more. And if short stories were more often done like this I would be (tricked into) reading more of them.
The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood I read this a long time ago and didn't like it. I think I abandoned it rather quickly but I can't remember why.
One of these days I will give it another try since I can only imagine that I was too young to understand or appreciate it then.
One Day - David Nicholls [This is a subjective review. This is just my opinion of this book, not a summary!]

Relationships are hard work and sometimes it is not easy to stay in love with someone or even keep in touch with an old friend. This novel takes it upon itself to show just that.

My biggest fear was that this would be just barely above the usual chick-lit with flat characters and a corny love story and I was positively surprised that it was not. Even though I don’t think Emma and Dexter, the two main characters are even remotely likeable I kept reading because they are still interesting and complex. The way their friendship, their ups and downs and even their personal lives apart from one another are depicted just seemed very realistic to me. For once a novel shows that keeping up a relationship, any relationship (be it a friendship, a marriage, or a romantic one) is hard work.
My first thought when I read about this novel’s premise was „it’s Harry and Sally all over again“. But actually this concept of meeting the two characters only once a year and seeing how they and their relationship develop seemed quite interesting, which is why I wanted to read the book in the first place. And I have to say that Nicholls did execute this really well.

Although the book was a bit depressing with all the hopelessness and my-life-is-going-nowhere stuff from Emma and the drugs-and-glamour lifestyle of Dexter in the beginning, I think that the point of this story really is to show that life is not always what we want it to be and the perfect job/husband/friend is not just going to fall into your lap. Albeit not a new or groundbreaking discovery, I personally liked this message.

So why won’t I give this more stars?
Well, one huge flaw was that I didn’t get why Emma kept pining about Dexter. You can tell from the very beginning that he is not a nice or likeable person. Emma seems to be rather intelligent but due to her low self-esteem she fails to see that she could do better than him or any of the guys she’s dating. This is probably also the reason why it takes her so long to find the courage to do what she wants professionally as well. I just don’t like weak and male-dependent female characters which made it hard for me to like this novel unconditionally.

That said, I liked the story and even (without revealing too much) the ending, which a lot of people seem to hate. And since the writing was quite decent there is no reason this book should get any less than three stars from me.

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood This is a retelling of the famous myth of Odysseus and Penelope. But it wouldn’t be Atwood if it was just a simple retelling of events. We get to see the other side of the story. The part where Penelope sits at home for more than twenty years waiting for her husband. The story is actually told by Penelope herself, now a resident of the Fields of Asphodel, the realm of the dead in Greek mythology.

In her account of the story she tells us how hard it was for her to watch her numerous suitors gorge away on her food supplies and how she had to come up with several tricks in order to keep them at bay. We also find out that Penelope actually recognized Odysseus in his beggar’s disguise right away but played along for several reasons. And she is not shy in telling us what she thought about her cousin Helen of Troy and her man-eating ways.

Apart from this the story is interlaced with “performances” by the twelve maids that where killed by Telemachus after his father had won Penelope for the second time and had slayed the remaining suitors. In fact, the story keeps returning to these maids and questions their guilt and Penelope’s honesty.

Do you have to know the story of Odysseus and Penelope to understand Atwood’s version? Yes, it definitely helps. But there is no need to get Homer’s [b:The Odyssey|1381|The Odyssey|Homer|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ypfZKKOmL._SL75_.jpg|3356006] and fight your way through it first. A general knowledge of Greek mythology and what happens in the Odyssee is enough to make one appreciate Atwood’s angle and her (sometimes very feminist) theories about Penelope and her twelve maids.
A Novel Bookstore - Laurence Cosse It took me some time to make up my mind about this book. The reason for this is that it triggered two different reactions in me. I couldn’t decide how to feel about the concept of the bookstore portrayed in the story. On the one hand this is a story about the love for reading and literature and I certainly felt a connection to the characters. I also couldn’t help but think: “What a bunch of snobs!” Even though my overall feeling while reading was a rather warm and fuzzy one, this sentence went through my mind from time to time. 99% of the books mentioned by Francesca and Ivan in their discussions about which books to get for their shop are unknown to me, which made me question my knowledge of literature and my reading habits. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it made me feel looked down upon and a bit patronized. Is it wrong to sometimes want to read something trashy? I don’t think so. And who determines what a “good novel” is, what is worth reading? In a way Ivan and Francesca’s project is a bit arrogant and a lot of the bookstore’s enemies in the course of the novel respond in a way similar to what I just stated. While reading I even sometimes thought that they were not all wrong in their protest.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful book (I gave 4 stars, didn’t I?). The love for literature is portrayed beautifully, I felt inspired to open my very own bookstore and had the wish to talk to Ivan and Francesca about books and life and everything. But then again, would they want to talk to me? Here comes the ambiguity again. I can’t make up my mind about the concept of literature promoted in this book. Maybe this feeling of snobbery and elitism is only due to the fact that it’s a French novel and therefore mostly deals with French literature, which I know next to nothing about. Maybe I would have felt differently about it if it had dealt with German or British literature.

The concept of literature promoted in this book is definitely debatable. What I am certain about is that this is a beautiful novel about the love of reading, which I liked very much.
Die ungeheuerliche Einsamkeit des Maxwell Sim - Jonathan Coe, Walter Ahlers Die ungeheuerliche Einsamkeit des Maxwell Sim? Eher die ungeheuerliche Langeweile. Zu allererst: Ich habe das Buch nicht zu Ende gelesen. Manchmal muss man zu einem Buch einfach "Nein" sagen und seine Lebenszeit für bessere, lustigere, schönere Bücher nutzen. So ging es mir bei diesem Roman.
Aber nicht alles ist schlecht an Coes Buch. Die Idee ist gut. Ein mit sich und der Gesellschaft, ja dem Leben im Algemeinen unzufriedener Mann Ende Vierzig begibt sich auf einen Roadtrip durch das Vereinigte Königreich und räumt nebenbei mal mit seinem Leben auf. Depressionen müssen langsam hinter sich gelassen werden, die Ex-Frau besucht und die Beziehung zum Vater verarbeitet werden. Das alles wird nicht leichter wenn man über Ex-Frau und Vater plötzlich Dinge erfährt, die die zwischenmenschlichen Beziehungen nicht gerade erleichternnund nebenbei auch noch verlorenen Freundschaften hinterhertrauert.

Wie gesagt, die Idee ist gut. Die Umsetzung leider nur zum Teil. Gefallen haben mir die Briefe und Kurzgeschichten, die den Roman an vier Stellen auflockern und dem Leser das Erzähler-Ich von einer neuen Seite zeigen. An diesen Stellen hat man die Chance ein wenig von dem anvisierten Tiefgang der Geschichte zu erahnen. Doch nach ein paar Seiten schaltet sich Maxwell Sim wieder ein und erzählt uns von seinen wenig interessanten Gedanken zum Thema Toyota Prius (das Gefährt, das ihn durchs Königreich bringt und dessen Navigationsgerät es ihm ganz besonders angetan hat). An diesen Stellen wird es schlicht und ergreifend langweilig und man beginnt an den Schriftstellerischen Fähigkeiten des Autors zu zweifeln. Genau das tut Maxwell übrigens irgendwie auch. Sobald es gilt eine Person näher zu beschreiben, rettet sich der Autor in die Unfähigkeit des Erzähler-Ichs Beschreibungen anzufertigen und sagt uns Lesern das auch frei heraus. Ich persönlich halte das für eine recht billige Abkürzung. Da nimmt der Autor den einfachen und - wie es meist ist - uninteressanteren Weg. Schade.

Ein Wort übrigens, das mir beim Lesen immer wieder durch den Kopf ging - Schade.
Und: Vielleicht hätte Stephen Clarke diesen Roman besser schreiben können. Hat er leider nicht. Schade.
Sleep - Haruki Murakami Gekauft habe ich die Sonderausgabe von "Schlaf" vor allem wegen der wunderschönen und düsteren Illustrationen und auch der Klappentext schien mir sehr viel versprechend.

Die Kurzgeschichte über eine Frau, die aus dem Alltagstrott ihres Lebens ausbricht, weil sie plötzlich nicht mehr schlafen kann /muss stimmt nachdenklich. Die Prämisse nicht mehr schlafen zu müssen, sozusagen Zeit geschenkt zu bekommen ist zunächst verlockend. Doch Murakamis Protagonistin beginnt auch über ihr Leben nachzudenken, ihre Ehe, ihren Sohn. Sie genießt die nächtliche Zeit für sich, zweifelt jedoch auch an ihrem Leben und nicht zuletzt an ihrem Verstand.

Die Geschichte selbst lässt den Leser etwas unbefriedigt zurück. Andererseits regt sie auch zum Nachdenken an. Über Zeit und wie man sie nutzt. DIe Illustrationen runden das ganze ab und geben der Geschichte einen düsteren, mysteriösen Anstrich.
How the Dead Live - Will Self I gave up. I read the prologue and the first chapter and decided to put it away. Initially I liked the idea behind the story but reading it put me in such a bad mood that I can't go on.
I am sure Self's writing is different and good but all this death and dying stuff is too much for me to handle right now.
Das geheime Leben der Bücher: Roman - Régis de Sá Moreira Ein Buch über das Lesen und die Liebe zu Büchern. Der Protagonist, einfach "der Buchhändler" genannt entführt den Leser in seine Welt, bestehend aus Büchern, Kräutertees und mehr oder weniger seltsamen Kunden. Was der Leser über den Buchhändler erfährt ist dass er in seinem Leben drei Frauen geliebt hat, jetzt aber nur noch Bücher und das Lesen liebt. Seine Buchhandlung ist sein Leben und so verkauft er dort ausschließlich Bücher, die er auch selbst gelesen hat. Das macht die Buchhandlung zu etwas ganz Besonderem und jedes Buch einzigartig. (Außer natürlich Anna Karenina - davon gibt es ein ganzes Regal voll.)
Es geschieht nicht viel in diesem Buch und das was geschieht, findet zu einem Großteil in der Phantasie des Lesers statt. Ein wunderschönes Buch, geschrieben in einer märchenhaften Sprache, die den Leser zum Nachdenken und Vorstellen anregt.

Empfehlenswert für alle, die, wie der Buchhändler, das Lesen lieben.