New Loot

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Finally got some new books! I’ve been trying not to get too many more books these last two years since the last move kind of gave me a book-moving trauma! But on my way home last week I saw some flyers for a used book sale at a community center and couldn’t resist. Once there I wasn’t really in any danger of buying too many books since most were Edgar Wallace, Forsyth, Pilcher and the likes and that’s not really my stuff. I was a very happy bookworm though when I found a copy of Das Alter (La Vielleisse) by Simone de Beauvoir and an English copy of Roots by Alex Hayley, score! I’ve never read de Beauvoir’s works on age and society so I’m very excited about it and since I studied American Studies I feel that it is obligatory to own a copy of Roots. Also, I’ve only ever watched the adaptation.

The funniest thing though was that on the way to the book sale I stumbled on a free books box and the only thing left was a copy of N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn in English and in great condition. This has never happened before, usually these boxes have either uninteresting books in them or they are wet from rain or smell weird. So I’m very happy about this one.

What books have you acquired recently and do you ever find free books boxes in your area?

Halloween Reads

Well, here I am again, crawling out of my blogless hidey-hole in abject shame! New books and ebooks (still somehow not real books to me) keep stacking up (well not quite sure what ebooks do…queueing?), but I find that I’m reading less and less fiction and more and more textbooks and feminist newsblogs etc. I’m still missing my commute, cause that was sacred reading time and I have yet to meet a fellow bookwork here in real life. I thought I’d start up writing a few lines about my reads again, even if it’s just for myself, to get back into things. So Im very optimistically going to set a goal of 2 books a month (3-years-ago- me would have been horribly embarrassed), I hear you all laughing! :)

Since I finally have a free weekend and am feeling particularly anti-social, I grabbed a couple of seasonal books and decided to lock myself in and enjoy a weekend reading. So here’s what’s on my Halloween reading pile:

christieNo Halloween without a reread of Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, possibly followed by the tv adaptation, because Mrs. Oliver is one of my favorite characters in the Poirot mysteries.

MissPeregrineCoverYes, I am in fact the last person on the planet to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I thought it was suitably creepy for the occasion and hopefully I’ll enjoy it, since I can then spend the next Halloweens reading the sequels.

jacksonALso a classic, which I have somehow not yet read. I’m not sure why, since I love Shirley Jackson’s books. Perhaps I didn’t want to blow through all her works in one go? Who knows, but this one I am definitely reading this weeked :)

Any recommendations on new creepy reads I shouldn’t miss out on? What are you reading this Halloween?

Lazy Sunday Reading

 

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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

 

In the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare – wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear – at a price. Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed …” (amazon)

*Waves* Still alive…

ImageWhoops…so it’s been some time. How’re you all doing, what are you reading, let me know!! I’m drowning in secondary literature and miss my prose reading days :( But I took two days off for the bank holiday and finally read the newest Flavia de Luce book (so good!) and also Nightingale Wood (also quite good, but I’m still devoted to Cold Comfort Farm, sorry).

I’m posting now because I found gift voucher for 20 euros while cleaning my desk and can’t decide what book to splurge for. I kinda realized that I have no idea what’s going on in the book world and what everyone is reading. I’d really love something adventure-y/mystery-ish/comfort read, maybe that’s badly phrased, but just something not depressing, a interesting world where I can spend my weekend in. Any recommendations? Plz?

Hope everyone’s enjoying the ‘lazy’ summer days :)

 

Queer diasporas

My uni library is sadly lacking in literature I need, so I’m always quite surprised when my catalogue searches do come up with results. I know it’s an academic read, but it’s fun and well-written and does give you critical tools for looking at literature and film in a fresh light. Separating academic from prose works is boring and I know you all can take it!

queer diasporas

Definitely read this one if you are interested in diasporas, queer theory, nationalism and lesbian subjectivity. In that case also check out M.F. Manalansan’s works.

I’m gonna curl up with Gopinath’s book and a pot of tea, intellectual posturing be damned.

What are you currently reading? Academic works, blogs or news articles, what reads do you leave out of your book blogs?

5 on my tbr

It’s been a while – again. I’m swamped with work at the moment, but then today I remembered the no-pressure-blogging resolution for this year. So, how about a quick post with five books that are currently on my tbr (it’s what I call my shoe box full of post-it notes with scrawls of titles and authors a.k.a. the ton of books I wish I had lying around). Have some pretty pics of pretty books:

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Saidiya Hartman)

hartman

Though I’ve read quite a bit about the Black Atlantic, Hartman’s work is still on my tbr. I’ve recently finished Cvetkovich’s Depression (which is amazing!) and she references and makes use of Lose Your Mother in her arguments. I really want to read this one now.

Die Tapetentür (Marlen Haushofer)

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My wonderful friend Vishy gave me Haushofer’s The Wall and I absolutely loved it (and I will review that one soon). So I thought I’d check out her other works and this one sounded great plus my library actually has a copy. The main character in this one is a librarian! and I hope Haushofer’s portrayal of women will be as great here.

Life after Life (Kate Atkinson)

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Absolutely love Atkinson’s crime fiction and most of all her biting sense of humor and nastiness of character descriptions. Time to try her novels and this one is recent and I’ve been seeing a lot of it on the blogosphere etc. Though it usually takes me ages to get to new books.

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (Nikki Loftin)

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A kind of Hänsel & Gretel revisited for middle-graders, it sounds like huge fun and some reviewers made daring Roald Dahl comparisons (careful with such comparisons please!!). This can only lead to disappointed expectations, but I want to give it a try anyway since I’m also a sucker for the cover art.

Brown Skin, White Masks (Hamid Dabashi)

dabashi

To make up for my shallow cover art comment, here’s an academic tbr (see I have depth) ;P I read more of those nowadays it seems, but I only recently discovered Dabashi’s work even existed. The Fanon book was amazing and this one basically connects it with Orientalism and our era and discusses the problems of intellectual migrants and informing on one’s home country. Will have to see about the quality of the arguments, but if it does what it advertises then I really want to include it in all future discussions of colonialism and Orientalism.

Have you read these books? Do you want to?

Also, self-conscious blogger question: Are posts like this of interest to you or do you prefer in-depth reviews?

Resolutions?

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image via

 

Happy 2014 everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful start into the new year and I wish you an amazing new year!

I don’t usually have resolutions ready for the new year, but it’s come up so often in conversations and on facebook this week, so I started thinking about how I wanted to get back into blogging (which coincided with the end of the year so…resolution?) and bookish resolutions are more fun anyway. So here I am giving it a shot:

1.) Read 1 book per week

I’ve always read a decent amount of books, but it’s been harder last year to find reading time or concentrate when I did take the time for reading. And most books I read were textbooks, so this brings me to resolution number…

2.) Make at least half of these books non-fiction and unrelated to academic work

This used to be easy, but I’m hopeful that this is simply a case of getting back in the saddle. And I do love lists (obviously), which is why I already had a fun morning choosing possible reads for this month, while everyone else was sleeping off the hangover heh.

3.) And as for blogging, I want to try to post at least one post per week.

Because I’ve quite missed it and all you wonderful bookish people! But I want to try to keep it fun and not a chore, so it’s probably going to be a lot of short reviews and thoughts more often than in-depth reviews, because I spent most of my day analyzing stuff and trying to sound smart.

See, this post will likely set the tone for my blogging style this year. But there’s no book cover yet (sacrilege!), so here’s what I just started reading:

http://ifyoucanreadthis.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/1d186-pic1.jpg?w=600

What are your resolutions for 2014 if you have any, and what is your first read of the year?

2013 vs. blogging

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What happened to 2013? As the year comes to an end and I look back, one of the things I finally noticed was how blogging has more or less disappeared from my life. So, what happened? I really focused on my studies this year (basically spent 90% of the year at my desk) and on all those extra things that should be on theCV, internships, great job experiences etc, I didn’t really take a vacation and finally, I am no longer doing literary studies. All those things together led to me reading less (less fiction that is, I read plenty articles and textbooks or textbook excerpts) and to let blogging slide. But reading and talking about books has always been a constant in my life and I find that I’m missing this a lot. I’m surrounded by incredibly smart people and we have amazing discussions, but mostly they are not for-fun-readers and this was once the reason I turned to blogging in the first place.

Usually in December, I look back at what I’ve read, but this time I have to admit I read so much less than all the other years and also, for the first time in years, I’ve not really kept track of my reads. I’ve actually had a couple of days of holidays for Christmas now and have read more in the last three days than I did the last three months, I hung out on goodreads, read a few book posts and am also trying to decide which books to get with my Amazon voucher. I’m thinking of my poor abandoned blog without feeling stressed and missing everyone’s amazing reviews and general enthusiasm for all things bookish, and I’m wondering whether I might be ready to return to blogging. So this is my incredibly awkward possibly returning to blogging end of the year blog!

Now I’ve just read JoV’s post about cutting back, I’m wondering about everyone elses experiences. Do you ever get tired of blogging or feel stressed or that it’s one more chore? How do you deal with it?

In any case, I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas and relaxing holidays with your loved ones and a ton of exciting books!

Thoughts: Vera

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I finally made use of my kindle again, for the disconcerting reason of not having any unread novels at my place. This has never happened to me before, and frankly, I’m still a bit shocked. But since I only moved to my current place for the first semester and am moving again (at least in the same city) soon, I only packed one small box of books. And then I found out I was out of unread books at night on a weekend…well I’m so happy there are great free e-books and that I own a kindle. Deciding on one book wasn’t easy, but I finally started Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim. I had this vague notion of having read a short story by her about Germans and a pension- and then realized that was Katherine Mansfield! And then after googling von Arnim I remembered why I had never tried her works, it’s the plants. I like flowers in my home, but other than that gardens and plants and such are not really my thing. Luckily, Vera is a plant-lite book. So, Vera is my first von Arnim experience and I have to say I absolutely loved her writing and characterization and want to try another one soon (Any recommendations? I thought of trying Fräulein Schmidt next).

Vera is about Lucy Entwistle, who is vacationing with her father, when he suddenly dies. Then, she meets Everard Wemyss, who has just lost his wife under tragic circumstances, and they bond, fall in love and get married. That sounds all very romantic complete with a happy ending, but that’s actually only the first part of the novel. It gets very much darker, and quite sad after that. I’m horrible with spoiler warnings, simply forget about them when I want to discuss a book, but even if I won’t reveal the ending, if you don’t want to know more about what happens and why the tone gets darker, better stop reading, I guess.

When Lucy and Wemyss get married, she comes to learn that her husband is controlling, has a temper and sulks like a child. She is still very much in love with him, but his character makes it nearly impossible to hold onto those feelings. Having only recently lost a father who protected Lucy, she is very much an innocent, and in part relishes Wemyss’ protectiveness. But he infantilizes her, calls her his “little one” and his “baby” (part of what first attracted him to Lucy was her girlish hairstyle and that she looked so young, much younger than her 22 years) and will not allow her any time to herself or make any decisions.

As Lucy mostly fell in love, because she understood Wemyss to be as bereaved as she was, she is horrified that he takes her to the house where his first wife died and never even thought of changing anything and later flatly refuses to. Thus, Vera, named after the first wife, is somewhat of a forerunner to DuMaurier’s Rebecca. The books are completely different, and yet like in Rebecca, Vera’s presence seems to linger. Thus, Lucy has to eat under the watchful gaze of the life-sized portrait of Wemyss’ first wife and her room is now Lucy’s. However, there is no Mrs. Danvers and as her husband turns out to be a completely different person and the love is difficult to hold onto, Lucy rather takes comfort in Vera’s lingering presence (for Vera was married to Wemyss for 15 years).

I really enjoyed the way Lucy was only first portrayed as somewhat simple, the intellectual circle of her father and their discussions were something she never felt part of and freely admits to finding their arguments too difficult to comprehend and too exhausting to follow. But, Wemyss, whom she first considers so wonderful, because he likes to keep things simple and has a clear-cut black and white view of the world, completely resistant to change, begins to feel strange to her and Lucy comes to realize the importance of ideas and discussions for herself. I really liked that she wasn’t simple, but instead grew when she finally experienced life outside of her father’s influence, even if her marriage is hell. Wemyss in contrast is basically a bully and the baby he always calls his wife.

The other character of importance is Lucy’s aunt, a spinster, who wants the best for Lucy, but also feels that as an old spinster, she cannot decide for her young niece who is so in love. While the smart, spinster aunt is a stereotypical figure, I really appreciated how von Arnim’ characterization of her was complex, even if she provides readers with something of a heroine character, who we can cheer for and sympathize with. Because that is not really possible with Lucy, who is trapped in a marriage, and not really the person to take a stand and be decisive. Lucy’s portrayal is great exactly because of that, but I still appreciated Miss Entwistle.

One other thing I loved, von Arnim knows how books should be treated! Absolutely loved this passage:

“She was accustomed to the most careless familiarity in intercourse with books, to books loose everywhere, books overflowing out of their shelves, books in every room, instantly accessible, friendly books, books used to being read aloud, with their hospitable pages falling open at a touch.”

(The context: Wemyss has a library of books he doesn’t read, what matters is that they are the best and most expensive editions and he keeps them behind glass doors, which he keeps locked with only him having the key.)

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!)

Thoughts: An Instance of the Fingerpost

Iain Pears’ novel has been sitting on my tbr pile for quite a while, but this month I gave myself a push, motivated by Anna and Iris’ “long-awaited-reads month”. Long awaited it was indeed, but I am so happy to have finally read the book.

 An Instance of the Fingerpost is a historical, scholarly (according to the blurbs) mystery set in 17th century England, mostly Oxford. Charles II is only just back on the throne, the country is still reeling from the civil war and everyone with at least a passing interest in power and politics is still scheming. The book consists of four narratives: The Venetian Marco da Cola, the student Jack Prescott, the cryptographer Dr. John Wallis and the archivist Anthony Wood. All write down their version of the events surrounding the murder of the Oxford don Grove, years after it happened, each contradicting the others’ narrative.

At the heart of the story, however, is Sarah Blundy, a young woman, who is caught up in the events and intrigues spun around her. She is from the lower classes, something of a herbalist, educated and holds progressive views on gender equality. As a result, she is alternately taken for a witch, a whore and a prophetess. The way she is treated is abysmal, but of course many of the attitudes regarding women are only articulated differently today. She was by far the most interesting character, but the prophetess thing threw me I have to admit. But then I couldn’t relate to the religious aspects at all.

What I was most excited about was the history of medicine, I always get a kick out of that. This is the time during which the Royal Society is beginning to emerge and Robert Boyle figures in this novel, too. It was fascinating to read a fictional account about how blood transfusion could have been first attempted and it is during the 17th century that methods are beginning to change from the humours approach and the set of the stars etc, to more “modern” approaches. In fact, the characters hold very different opinions on what is legitimate medicinal treatment and constantly argue in Aristotelian fashion.

 I don’t think this worked for me as a mystery, but I really enjoyed its other aspects so I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. The first 100 pages were a bit hard going, but after I had oriented myself so to speak, I got really into it. I was scrambling to remember classes on English history, but in the end a bit of googling helped me picture the time and the connections between the historical characters better. Perhaps the blurbs are a bit misleading, this is not a page-turner, but this is one well-researched historical novel, nt some crap put together after glancing at a Wikipedia page and if you’re interested in 17th century politics, gender relations, religion and the history of medicine, I doubt that the amount of pages without instant gratification will bother you. Oh and it’s extremely well-written, too!

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link.

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