It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

The meme that we use to share what we read this past week and what our plans are for the upcoming week. Now hosted by The Book Date.

 

Last Week

It’s been a busy week, I had lots of paperwork stuff on my list and I’m starting to prepare for my defense and oral exam. So you might soon find my reading following some themes not part of a challenge 🙂

I got some baking done and found the perfect mix of glutenfree flour. So yay bread is back on for breakfast (I’m German so bread is life! 🙂 ) and nope I’m not gluten intolerant just have to watch what I eat. It doesn’t look as pretty as normal bread loaves, but it tastes pretty awesome:

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On the reading front, I managed to finish two books and that means my book juggling is slowly getting more manageable:

Gut was a quick and easy read, despite it being non-fiction. Enders presents a quick informative overview of the gut and its importance to our health in general but also with regard to bacteria influencing mental health. Who knew! It’s written in an accessible style and accompanied by charming illustrations made by the author’s sister.

Brown Girl Dreaming was a tougher read with regard to the subject matter but I absolutely love it. It’s written in verse but I dare say it will appeal to non-poetry people as well. I listend to the audiobook narrated by the author and it was such a cool ‘reading’ experience. Highly recommended!

I also got some blogging done though I dropped the ball on my schedule. Oh well, so many of you were nice enough to drop in anyways! I posted a list of books that make for perfect uninterrupted weekend reading, so if you have a free weekend soon take a look at my post. And then I also recommended lots of novellas for Saturday’s readathon or in case you want to get some quick reading in.

Currently

So this morning I realized my only fiction read was the Issa Rae memoir as audiobook but I only listen to it before bed. That means I can finally get to my Once Upon a Time book list and it’s about time as I’ve only read 1 out of 5! I started with Somatar’s book and so far I’m really enjoying it.

olondria

Soon

So soon, in fact next Saturday: It’s readathon time, yay!

readathon

Hope lots of you are joining in, it’s such a fun event! You can still sign up here.

Also, I will soon (probably in May) start with my uni reading and one of my topics is Chicana lit. So anyone wanting to drop some recommendations or join me in my prep reading, let me know in the comments. I fear I’ll have to stick to the classics but we’ll see.

Hope you’re all having a great start to the week! We actually had a nice sunny but not too warm day over here and I spent some time reading in the garden. What are you all reading?

Once Upon a Time X

once upon a time x

It’s that time of the year again: Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting his Once Upon a Time challenge for the 10th time! It’s probably fair to say at this point, that the event has become an institution. Kudos! Here’s what the challenge involves in Carl’s own words:

“Monday, March 21st (my wife Mary’s birthday) marks the official start date of the tenth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing and gaming event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing/gaming whims.”

I’ve decided to go for more books but less restriction on categories and thus the Quest the First category: “Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

quest the first

Making a list for a reading challenge is all kinds of fun in itself, so here’s a number of books I’m very excited about and which are probably heavy on the fantasy, but combine other elements as well:

kynship chronicles

The Way of Thorn and Thunder (Kynship Chronicles) by Daniel Heath Justice

This is a trilogy of epic indigenous fantasy set in the Old World during the 18th century, about the Kyn of the Everland and their detructive encounter with humanity. Drawing on traditions of high fantasy and indigenous mythology, Cherokee author Daniel Heath Justice creates a founding tale of non-European fantasy that bends gender, genre and sexuality. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

olondria

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

This one’s been on my list for ages and it fits the challenge perfectly. Merchant son Jevick has been raised on stories of Olondria, a land where books are common. When he gets the chance to make a trip to Olondria, his dreams seem to come true. But once there he is haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl. And there’s now a second story about Olondria, Samatar’s The Winged Histories.

who fears death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

I picked this up recently, read a few pages and only then noticed it wasn’t The Book of Phoenix, which I thought I was reading. But, this is quite convenient as I will just read this one for the challenge now. Who Fears Death is the story of a child born of rape in post-apocalyptic Africa, who discovers her magical abilities and seeks to end the genocide of her people.

princeless

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley

I absolutely adored the first issue of this one and with Scribd changing its policy, I wanted to get some more comics in. This is for the fairy tale category and it brilliantly subverts gender and racial stereotypes. The author is white but has thought of these stories for his Black daughter, so that she can see herself represented in non-oppressive stories.

midnight robber

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I loved Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring and just cannot resist this one either. This one is fantasy/sf with lots of Caribbean folklore. Set on the Caribbean-colonized planet Toussaint and Tan-Tan must become the Robber Queen to save herself from folklore creatures.

Race and Popular Fantasy Literature

 Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness by Helen Young

And as a sort of non-fiction compendium, I want to take a look at this one. I’m lacking the sort of context and background that comes with reading a lot of fantasy for years, so I want to catch up but also do this through an critical race studies lens.

Are you joining us in the Once Upon a Time challenge? Or maybe you have some folklore and fairy tale suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

March is #Weirdathon!

weirdathon pic

Yay, I’m finally back to blogging! And my lovely friend Deepika immediately informed me I should join the #weirdathon 😀 It’s such good timing, so I’m in.

Hosted by Julianne of Outlandish Lit, who I stalk on instagram, #weirdathon is about reading all those wonderfully weird books, the weirder the better.Happy blog anniversary btw, Julianne and thanks for such a great event!

Now for the fun part, here’s a list! Well, I tried, I’ve found myself wondering what was weird to me, how much that had changed during the last year thanks to reading more speculative fiction and of course, if I would ever really stick to my list. Here be weird:

mieville

This Census-Taker by Chine Miéville

Now, no list of weird books can be complete without weirdfiction writer China Miéville! This one is a novella and one of his newest I think. It doesn’t sound as weird as his other stuff, but I’m sure it will be super weird anyway.

“After witnessing a profoundly traumatic event, a boy is left alone in a remote house on a hilltop with his increasingly deranged parent. When a stranger knocks on his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation are over—but by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? Is he the boy’s friend? His enemy? Or something altogether other?”

(goodreads)

glennkill

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

Glennkill, the original German title, is a mystery with a sheep detective. Yup you read that right! Also, I’m always down for a cozy mystery.

“On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, a flock of sheep gathers around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared devotedly for the flock, even reading them books every night. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George’s killer.”

(goodreads)

liminal people

The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

Now superhero/-powers stories like X-Men are weird, and weird to me. I haven’t really explored this genre much.  The Liminal People sounds brilliant and dark, though, and I  don’t want to stray too far from my reading people of color goal this year. Also, the book is available on Scribd.

“Taggert can heal and hurt with just a touch. When an ex calls for help, he risks the wrath of his enigmatic master to try and save her daughter. But when Taggert realizes the daughter has more power than even he can imagine, he has to wrestle with the very nature of his skills, not to mention unmanned and uncreated gods, in order keep the girl safe. In the end, Taggert will have to use more than his power, he has to delve into his heart and soul to survive.”

(goodreads)

Are you joining #weirdathon? Also, I’d love some recommendations for diverse weird fiction, let me know in the comments!

September in Books and a Peek at October

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September was a good reading month for me, as it’s been ages since I managed 6 books in one month. September also marks the start of the R.I.P. X challenge and I completely immersed myself in creepy fall reads. I hope to manage separate reviews for most of them, so this’ll be just a quick overview. I read Lockhart’s hyped work before signing up for the challenge and can recommend it as a YA mystery-ish quick read.

During my last migraine, once the absolute worst was over and before I even managed to face the house outside my bed in sunglasses, I tried listening to The Body in the Library, an old comfort read, on audible. Earplugs were out, but the narrator was great and the story a very familiar one and so it was nice to drift in and out of the migraine haze with a cozy crime. I haven’t really given the newer tv adaptations of the Marple books a go, but I think they’ll be great fall tv (even without a fireplace). If you’ve watched them, let me know how you liked them! What with my goal to read more YA literature and fantasy, I chose Cinder and Rosemary and Rue for the R.I.P. challenge and enjoyed them both quite a lot. I’ll post a review of Cinder sometime this week, and I’ve already put both series on my tbr.

September was also the month I discovered e-book flats and I managed to finish two books on Scribd: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and NOS4A2. The first was a children’s book I think, but it was creepy as hell along the lines of Coraline, so I maybe kid’s are much tougher than I am. But it was a great read and I’ll definitely try more of Legrand’s works. NOS4A2 was even creepier and at times a tough read, but it was a quick read despite the 450 something pages and had a great main character.

Now in October, I’ll be continuing with my R.I.P. list and this month I’m also taking part in Aarti’s Diversiverse challenge. The challenge is a simple but important one: Read and review and book written by a person of color during October 4th and 17th. I already have the new Jemisin book The Fifth Season and Due’s The Good House on my R.I.P. list, so if I’m short of time, I might combine both challenges. But I’ve been thinking of what would make my reading more diverse and also be more connected to my own context and place and so I thought I’d read a book by a German woman of color:

Popoola-Also-by-mail_rbg_web

Also by Mail is a comedy-drama by London-based Nigerian-German author, speaker and performer Olumide Popoola. It’s about two Nigerian-German siblings traveling to Nigeria to bury their dead father, fitting in with their Nigerian family and their grief and loss as well as being racialized in Germany. I chose this work for how it resonates with me and also because it’s available in English.

This month I will also be continuing my Scribd trial and I have so many books on my wish list, I think I will continue the e-book flat. At the top of my list is The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, I’m about 200 pages in and love it so far. This is what I want from fantasy and speculative fiction more generally, complex ‘other’ worlds to explore matters of multiple genders, colonialism and genocide and trump the horn for social justice matters.

That’s it from me, how was your September? And what’s on the tbr for October?

RIP: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X

rip10500(gorgeous art by Abigail Larson)

Autumn is here, my favorite time of the year. First time we had under 20°C, I got out my cardigan and curled up on the couch with hot tea and a mystery. Cause autumn is also the perfect season for reading the creepy crawlies. I always end up reading more mysteries, gothic novels and thrillers to compensate for my summer reads, but never quite managed to sign up for the R.I.P. event in time. Well, so I’m a week late, but this year RIP is in its 1oth year (hosted by The Estella Society for a change) and I finally signed up. I’m always reading mysteries as comfort reads anyway, so I’m shooting for Peril the first, that is reading four books.

ripnineperilfirstMaking lists for these challenges is half the fun anyway, but I also know that as soon as I put together a list I will just read whatever else I can get my hands on. Small rebellions ;P Still, this satisfies my list-making obsession and I’m pretty excited about all of these reads so maybe I’ll actually stick to my list:

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I’m about halfway through Rosemary and Rue, the first October Daye novel about a changeling PI. I’m really enjoying it so far, though I prefer my urban fantasy with a bit more humor. I also got started on Cinder, only a couple pages in and I’m already sold on a smart cyborg cinder who’s one hell of a mechanic.

I really liked Susan Hill’s book about books and her ghost stories, so I’m hopeful about The Various Haunts of Men, which is the first one in a detective series. And I got Jemisin’s new book The Fifth Season just in time or RIP, it’s a sign 🙂 And, finally, I saw The Good House on audible and it sounded wonderfully creepy and I’m also happy to see  women of color horror writers getting some attention.

Are you participating in RIP? What creepy reads are on your tbr?

Thoughts: Twinkle Twinkle

twinkle

Twinkle Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni is a short novel (just 170 pages), which follows the story of Shoko and Mutsuki. When we meet them, they are only a short time into their marriage of convenience. Shoko suffers from depression and is an alcoholic, Mitsuki is gay and has been in a relationship with his boyfriend Kon for a long time. Their respective in-laws only know about the “defect” of their own child and are ecstatic that they got their children married.

The novel is told alternately from Shoko’s and Mutsuki’s perspective, a style which worked very well for me, blending and crashing both their perspectives and voices to tell their story. It’s a quirky and somewhat strange book, but the topics at the heart of it are important and dark.

First of all, there is the matter of their “defects”; Shoko’s mental illness and alcoholism are very serious problems, Mustsuki’s sexuality should not be one at all. Because of that they are both not considered ideal marriage partners, but their parents’ are desperate to see them married. Bowing to the constant pressure of their parents and Japanese society is how they end up married to each other.

I think this novel was originally written in the 90s and I have no idea whether things have now changed, but I had no idea the pressure to get married and have children in Japan was this great. There seems to be no place outside traditional gender roles and both characters are constantly told that everything will be alright once they are married and then once they have children. Shoko is completely ignored when she attempts to get help, because apparently marriage will magically fix it all.

They do seem to find a bit of comfort and understanding in each other. But with Mutsuki continuing, and Shoko insisting he continue, his relationship with Kon, they end up in a somewhat unconventional love-triangle. Although there is a suggestion that they find a solution that works for them all in the end, I have to say I am a bit unconvinced. It’s no small thing to be living with an alcoholic depressive, who has violent mood swings, and to be bound to someone who loves another person. Supposedly, the problems and moments of tension will be resolved with their solution, but throughout the story and over the couple of months of their marriage I could not really see how Shoko was more stable or drank less. And Mutsuki was mostly incredibly patient and understanding all the time.

This was the biggest problem for me, the characters. The secondary characters were very flat, especially the parents, who kept repeating the traditional, conservative tirade and not much else, they might as well have been walking posters. And Mutsuki, I simply don’t think that anyone can have his patience and tolerance all the time, and so I could seldom believe in him as a person. Shoko is the one character who stood out to me. In the beginning, I was afraid she would be another caricature of the mad woman, but slowly she became more three-dimensional: Trying to get professional help, enjoying being on her own, saying mean things and regretting them.

I did enjoy reading Twinkle Twinkle for its quirkiness, the sarcastic bright cover, its representation of mental illness, and the way it calls attention to gender roles in Japanese society. I read this novel as part of Tony’s January in Japan challenge. It seems that another Ekuni novel, God’s Boat, has been translated into English recently. I know I’ll want to give it a try.

 

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

 

Review: Strangers

If someone asked me I would say I absolutely love Japanese literature, and Banana Yoshimoto’s N.P. was such a reading experience, that I never noticed that I don’t actually read many Japanese novels! Which says a lot about Yoshimoto’s works (I’ve read and loved them all, though I haven’t read her newest work yet) but was an embarrassing realization for me. Still, I signed up for Bellezza’s fifth Japanese Literature Challenge, which is a wonderful opportunity to read more works by Japanese authors and get lots of recommendations from others.

Do you have certain books you pick up many times but ultimately put back on the shelf again? I do that a lot, somehow I’m always drawn to the same covers but am unsure about the plot or style. On my last visit to the library, I finally looted Strangers by Taichi Yamada.

Strangers is about Hideo Harada, a tv script-writer in his late forties. Since the divorce from his wife he has moved into his office, a place which is both loud from nearby traffic and eerily quiet as everyone else leaves in the evening. One night however, he notices that one other window is lit and shortly after meets its occupant, a beautiful young woman with whom he starts an affair. One day he decides to visit his childhood home in Asakusa, where he meets a couple who look exactly like his parents who died in a motorcycle crash when Hideo was twelve. Although he tries to convince himself that he is suffering from hallucinations, he cannot resist parental care and love and keeps visiting his parents who now look younger than he is himself. However, with each visit he appears closer and closer to death himself as his gaunt and gray looks begin to scare the people around him.

Yamada’s novel is an eerie, wonderfully atmospheric ghost story told in sparse prose. Is this elegant sparse prose typical for Japanese literature? It seems to be from my limited experience. I’m tempted to compare the prose style to the Japanese cuisine but perhaps labeling it sparse would incur the wrath of those who know better? 😉 While I’m drawn to the explosion of aroma that is Indian cooking, I love the opposite when it comes to prose style.

Strangers plays with reality and illusion and like Hideo you can never be quite sure which is which. Yamada has set his ghost story in an urban environment, and despite or because of the huge population of Tokyo, his characters are desperately lonely people. I’d love to say more about Hideo’s relationship with the dead which is so very different from that with the real people in his life, but I’m afraid to spoil things for those who haven’t read the novel. I don’t think the ending will come as a complete surprise, and despite the shortness of this book I felt it dragged a bit in the middle, but the mood was always atmospheric and made me read on. I wonder if this is perhaps an early novel? Although I really enjoyed Strangers and will recommend it to others, I do think that there was more potential to the story and Yamada can do better. I’ll have to check what else has been translated of his works, any recommendations?

Other thoughts:

Dolce Bellezza

Things Mean A Lot

The Parrish Lantern

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

Review: The Red House Mystery

Like most people, I know A. A. Milne as the author of the Pooh books (though admittedly I haven’t read any of them) but to my delight I learned that Milne, a fan of the classic detective story, had written one himself. The Red House Mystery is sadly the only mystery he wrote, but it is such a delight! If you are in the mood for  a classic mystery which also gently mocks that genre or just fancy a cosy, this should be your next read.

Anthony Gillingham, our amateur sleuth (for let’s face it, the best sleuths are amateurs) stumbles into the middle of a country house murder and a locked-room murder no less. Arriving at the red house to visit his friend Bill Beverley, Tony finds that the host Mark Ablett has disappeared and his no-good brother Robert from Australia has been shot in the study, it’s a rum business as Bill would say. So Tony chooses a new profession and Bill agrees to play Watson to his Sherlock Holmes.

Bill by the way is just the sidekick anyone could wish for and with his “I say” and “what-ho” reminded me a lot of Bertie Wooster. Like Wodehouse’s world, the one Milne conjures here is one of eternal English summer, teas and tennis. It’s the idealistic pre-WWI England that never really existed but is always mourned, especially in the classic British mysteries. I recommend joining the characters with a cup of tea and a scone in this ideal world (where some people just happen to be murdered 😉 ). Still, it’s all very cosy and fun and the characters as well as the narrator keep commenting on genre conventions and references abound.  The solution isn’t too much of a surprise, but otherwise there’s really not much Milne doesn’t provide. There’s a marvelous library, a secret passage, a Holmes and Watson pair of sleuths, a locked room murder and the police are baffled.

I can’t believe though that Milne would end the book with his sleuth saying that he was just getting into the swing of it and then not follow it up with a sequel! But there you go, you have been warned to make the most of this little gem!

As this mystery is a classic and was published in 1922, this counts for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge.

Other thoughts:

Things Mean A Lot

Novel Insights

Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf

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

Review: The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad has been on my tbr list for quite some time and I wanted to read it for our Read a Myth challenge. Luckily Bellezza and Col hosted a readalong, and I finally moved this book to the top of my list. I’m a bit late with posting the review, but better late than never I guess.

Now, first up a confession: I have not read The Odyssey. However unforgivable that might be, I like to think that I know enough of the stories to ‘get’ The Penelopiad. This is the fourth book by Atwood that I’ve read, the others are The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and Oryx & Crake. And they are all absolutely amazing.

The Penelopiad is Atwood playing around with the character of Penelope, Odysseus’ long-suffering wife. Atwood gives a voice to virtuous and constant Penelope and imagines her side of the story. We learn about Penelope’s life before her marriage, about her thoughts on her husband’s adventures (the cyclops here becomes a tavern owner and their fight about an unpaid bill, and Circe’s island a whorehouse) and her relationship with her cousin Helen. Poor Penelope, her husband is off fighting and sleeping around, Helen can be relied on to make a mess of things and her son grows up to be one annoying teenager. Still, somehow she manages to run a household and more official affairs.

Penelope’s narrative is interrupted by the chorus of the twelve maids, who seem to have been on Atwood’s mind a lot. No wonder, considering they were raped, slaughtered and hanged! While Penelope’s status in a patriarchal society is quite low, she is still a princess and much better off than her maids. Their rape is nothing unusual apparently but not asking their master’s permission is unacceptable. The maids are female slaves and as such their murder is all about property.

I enjoyed Atwood’s retelling and her emphasis on class and gender issues, but The Penelopiad is actually also a very funny novella and the last chapter is more than a little ironic. I hope I’m not alone in that opinion but since I also find American Psycho funny, my sense of humor might be considered a bit weird by some people.

Other thoughts:

Bibliojunkie

Dolce Bellezza

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

The Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

 

Remember how I didn’t really want to participate in challenges this year? Well, since I found a challenge that fits my reading tastes exactly, I had to sign up. I don’t think there’s any way I could not complete the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block. Thanks so much for coming up with this wonderful challenge, Bev!

I decided to sign up for the level of A Murderous Mood: 4-6 books. I have a few ideas for books, though this list is by no means definite:

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

 

The Saltmarsh Murders by Gladys Mitchell

 

Why Shoot a Butler by Georgette Heyer

 

The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley

 

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh

 

What do you think? Is there another vintage mystery I simply have to read?