Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books from my Childhood and Teens I'd love to revisit

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic that the participants come up with a top ten list for.

This week is about some of our childhood/teen favorites we'd love to pick back up at some point

Quite a few of the books on this list will be German, though I think some of them have been translated into English. It's pretty much unavoidable since I'm Swiss and didn't start reading books in English until I was about 16.

Michael Ende - Die unendliche Geschichte (The Never-ending Story)
I borrowed a very old edition of this one from the library when I was 12 or 13. The pages were all worn, and it still had the original illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (I have since wanted to buy the book for myself, but the illustrations were missing. What's up with that?!) and was written all in green and red ink. I just fell into this story and loved it so much! (I have never seen the movie.)

Wolfgang Hohlbein - Der Greif (The Gryphon) / Schattenjagd (Shadowhunt) / Spiegelzeit (Mirror Time)
Hohlbein was the YA fantasy god of German literature in the 80s and 90s (since he's so prolific, at least some of these must have been translated). I must own like 20 of his books and I've borrowed even more of them from the library (they are all really big and I just stacked them up to my chin, then read them all in a week and borrowed the next stack). All of the ones mentioned above are portal fantasy, with protagonists moving between two worlds. In the Gryphon, the protagonist enters another realm whenever he climbs and runs over rooftops. Which sounds like fun, until he's being hunted and terrifying creatures start intruding into the real world. Shadowhunt's protagonist is in a wheelchair and only experiences full mobility when playing immersive video games... until suddenly, he can't leave the game anymore. In Spiegelzeit, the protagonist can step through mirrors into a world his varieté-magician father created (and then screwed over). It also has one of my favorite endings ever. I really need to re-read some of these!

Philipp Pullmann - His Dark Materials trilogy
I came across these when I was about 14, 15. I think that I'd get more out of them if I re-read them now, especially Amber Spyglass. It's full of Milton quotes, but I only realized that almost ten years later when I read Paradise Lost at university. I loved the world of Lyra's Oxford so much, the idea of daemons, the adventures, the alethiometer, the witches, the northern lights...

Stephen King - Dark Tower series
I had an extreme King phase in my teens, and this trilogy is my favorite of his works, and one of my favorite series ever. It's just so epic and multilayered and tied into literary history / working with intertextuality and metafiction. Roland Deschain and I didn't have an easy start but I really grew to love him and the Ka-tet (sorry if I misspell anything, I read these in German). Also, I've only begun to realize in recent years how unusual the cast of protagonists really is: a gunslinger who's lost some most of the fingers of his right hand, a black woman with multiple personality disorder, an ex-junkie, a little boy who had to grow up way too fast. I think this was one of the first time I'd been confronted with addiction and disability in such a direct way via literature.

Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere
I read this when I was 19, so in my very, very late teens. It was a couple months before I first went to London, and I can honestly say that I could never look at London in a 'normal' way. It was always colored by what Gaiman wrote about it, and it will always be magic to me.

Enid Blyton - The Twins at St. Clare's
I must say I feel cheated. In German, the twins are called Hanni and Nanni, but apparently their real names in the English version are Isabel and Pat?! What's up with that? o.O Anyhow, I think I've read pretty much the whole series, or at least what was available of it in German. I loved reading about boarding school, the teachers, the other students, the midnight parties, and all the shenanigans the twins got up to.

Holly Black - Tithe
I borrowed it from the library (in German) when I was 15 or 16, read it twice, then borrowed it again a couple months later. When I found out that there are sequels which had never been translated, I bought the whole trilogy in English. I still love Holly Black, I still love reading (and writing) about faeries. This book had a big impact on me and the way I look at the world.

Anne Rice - The Vampire Lestat
Back in the days, there weren't that many vampire books (or at least I couldn't find them, since the internet was less awesome and many were never translated). While Interview with the Vampire really bored me most of the time (Louis is so whiny!) I loved Lestat as a narrator. He made me feel like I was right there, whether it was Paris in the 18th century or the 1980s.

I think I'll leave it at this. Everything else I'd add is by German or Swiss authors that I doubt anyone has heard of. I think I kind of missed out on a lot of English / American children's books. I've never read The Wizard of Oz or anything by Roald Dahl (I've seen the Matilda movie a gazillion times though). Maybe I'll have time to remedy that at some point. Please link me up to your own posts, I'd love to see what you guys read as children / teens :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: books on my spring TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic that the participants come up with a top ten list for.

Hello there, to those that still follow. This time around, I will not say that I'm back because I did that in January and things didn't turn out that way. I've been in a bit of a funk, but I'm not ready to give up on blogging yet. So hopefully now that spring has arrived and the flowers are starting to bloom (at least where I live), my urge to post new content and engage with other readers and bloggers will return as well.

It's been a long while since I've done a TTT post and I don't have a clear idea of what books are coming out in the next few months, but my Spring TBR was a list that I felt I could post anyway, even if it's not only filled with upcoming releases ;)

The books are in no particular order.

Crimson Bound, by Rosamund Hodge
I really enjoyed Cruel Beauty, Hodge's debut. Rachelle sounds like an equally fierce heroine and I hope I'll enjoy this fairytale rewriting as much as the last one!

The Novice, by Taran Matharu
Demon summoning. Magic battle. A badass cover. Alliances and betrayals. I have high hopes for this one and was lucky enough to get an ARC, so I'll probably be reading it some time next month :)

The Winner's Curse, by Marie Rutkoski
I loved Rutkoski's writing style in The Shadow Society (my review is here) and I've wanted to buy this book for so long. I finally caved a few weeks ago and will definitely read it this spring, especially with the sequel having just released :)

Between the Spark and the Burn, by April Genevieve Tucholke
I really enjoyed Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and I've had this book on my shelf since late summer. I've been putting it off because I need to re-read Deep Blue Sea first (or at least skim over the second half) and I've been more focused on reading books I hadn't read before. I'm tackling sequels and the moment though, so I will get to it! Also, I just realized that there won't be a third book, which means I can binge-read the whole story :D

Ensnared, by A.G. Howard
I got this conclusion to the Splintered trilogy a week or two ago but haven't gotten to it yet. I admit I'm sad (and a little scared) to see this series end. Also, I think my preferred 'ship' (Alyssa + Morpheus) is not going to make it... and let's face it, that always hurts to read, no?

Unbound, by Victoria Schwab
I read A Darker Shade of Magic and it reminded me of how much I love her writing style! I think I need to re-read The Archived first though because it's been a while...

Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff
Because it's about time and I have it on my kindle.

The Night Itself, by Zoë Marriott
Same reason as above (on my shelf since summer 2013). Also, I think the trilogy is complete by now or at least the second books is out and the third upcoming later this year.

Storm Glass, by Maria V. Snyder
I'm on a roll with her books. They are sooo good! I admit that I'm anxious to return to Yelena and Valek but I'm interested in Opal's story too and it's all in the same fictional universe.

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner
Because this series seems to have become a classic of sorts and sometimes, I am in need of some high fantasy with thieves taken from prisons to fulfill a particular task and have adventures. Also, Sarah Rees Brennan recommended it.

Do we have any spring reads in common? Or have you read them earlier and can recommend them? Also, please link me up to your own TTT posts, I'd like to discover some new books :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Heart of Stone (Gods & Monsters #4), by Kelly Keaton

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine to spotlight upcoming book releases that we're excited about.

This week's pick

Release date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: self-pubbed
Format: ebook

Goodreads description

Set in New 2, a dangerous and lush alternate New Orleans, the fourth book in Keaton’s Gods & Monsters series, finds the God-killer Ari and Mistborn Sebastian on the hunt for Archer, infant son of Athena, a child fated to bring about the Blood Wars, the ultimate showdown between the gods and the monsters they created, a war that will trap mankind in the middle of a destructive conflict thousands of years in the making.

As Ari and Sebastian attempt to rescue the child, forces pull them apart, sending Sebastian on a perilous journey to the desert sands of Egypt and into the lair of a dark, enthralling entity, and Ari to the Halls of Olympus and, darker still, the very heart of the Underworld where Death awaits with a bargain that brings Ari’s worst nightmares into sharp and heart wrenching focus…

Last week, I re-read book 2 in the series and finally read the third one, too. I read each one in a day and remembered how much I love this series! I'm so glad the third book was even published (Harper had at first only bought the first 2) and I'm excited to see Ari and Sebastian and Violet's story continue, now in self-pubbed form. If you haven't checked this series out yet and you love Greek mythology, you really should give it a try!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stacking the Shelves: Find Me Forever After Rising

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to showcase all the books we got in the past week. Those can be bought, won, gifted, for review, borrowed, print or ebooks... no matter, just share what you got :)

I haven't done an StS post since the end of October, so obviously I'd have quite a few new books to show off. However, I can't really remember what I bought when and I don't feel like linking up so many books ^^'' So I'll only show you some of my most recent ones.

The Forever Song, by Julie Kagawa
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
Find Me, by Romily Bernard
Blood of My Blood, by Barry Lyga

The Forever Song has been out for, well, forever, but the release totally went past me because I was in MA thesis mode. And then I didn't know which edition to buy because my version of Immortal Rules was discontinued anyway. in the end I settled for the UK edition because I was at Waterstone's in London and that's what they had.

I also got Red Rising and Isla there, I'd wanted both for forever. And the Red Rising paperback was usually 27 bucks in Switzerland. 27 bucks for an effing paperback. Nuh-uh. The English had a much more reasonable price.

I had Find Me and Blood of My Blood in my mailbox this morning, which was a nice surprise because I thought they'd arrive on Monday and now I have an excuse to hole up in my apartment tomorrow while it snows outside ^^ I love the new cover for Find Me. The old one was more thriller-ish but if you look at the details, the new one has those relations to hacking etc. too.
And I just know that Blood of My Blood is going to be a total mindfuck. Game ended in such a terrible place but somehow I feel like things are going even more downhill for Jasper from there. That series is truly chilling. That's why I like it so much.

I did way too much blabla here for an StS post but whatever. At least I posted something, right? I'll try to write either a review or a discussion post tomorrow and have it up for Monday. Now that I'm connected to the internet again, I have this desire to blog and talk about stuff.

So yes. I haven't read any of those in my haul yet, so if you have, tell me what I need to pick up first :) Also, link me up to your own haul! I want to see some book-pretty and I'm way out of the loop as to what's coming out.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On my absence, and a Happy New Year to all!

Hey guys,

I'm really sorry for my continued absence! 2014 was not a good blogging year for me. First I was very busy with my MA thesis, then I spent a few weeks abroad, then I blogged some, then NaNoWriMo came around... I thought I could do better in December but I just moved house last weekend (of course, moving day was when the weather decided that Switzerland finally needed All The Snow) and was busy packing before that (boxing up all those books!) and also flew to Belgium... to go on a roadtrip to the north of England to see the last ever show of a favorite band.

So yes. Busy. Also, I am without internet in the new apartment until at least mid-January (I am sneaking this post in at work, hence the lack of gifs). I just wanted to give you a quick update as to what is going on. I hope I can post a lot more reviews and discussions in 2015! I don't like what the blog looked like these past few months and want to get into a routine again.

On that note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a happy new year and, as we say here, guete Rutsch!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: Doll Bones, by Holly Black

Release date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardover, 247 pages

Goodreads description
Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing... and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity...

The following review is based on a copy I got at the Holly Black signing at ALA Las Vegas last summer.

Why did I wait so long to read this book? A) it's middle grade, which isn't my go-to category B) It's about dolls. Dolls are CREEPY, never mind that I used to play with them. But it's a Holly Black book, so I knew I would read it sooner or later (I've loved her books for the past 10 years).

I'm so glad I decided to read Doll Bones now, and that I had the chance to have it signed last summer. It was, to an extent, like a trip down memory lane. The way Zach, Poppy and Alice played is so similar to the way I grew up playing with my friends. The stories they made up in their heads and somehow 'saw' happening around them... that's just how we played. And I'd forgotten about the rush I used to get from it, and what a wonderful feeling it is. How plastic figures or shells or folded-paper ships can become real to you. I would have SO gone on a quest like them! Actually, we sometimes did. We packed our stuff and went into the forest on the basis of a made-up story (to find a treasure or build a fort or look for fairies). So reading about their experience was magical for me on several different levels.

I really like the way Holly Black constructed this story, the episodes the kids had to go through, how the dynamics between them started to shift, how family life wasn't easy for any of them for various reasons. That grounded the story. The quest each kid was on meshed with their real life problems as well as something else, something maybe-supernatural, something outside of them. I liked the uncertainty - were they just making it all up like they did when they were playing, or was there really something else going on? Was the doll sinister and ill-intentioned, or did she just want to find rest?

I could say 'this is a book about growing up' but that isn't really true. It's a story about beginning to grow up. About being afraid to begin growing up, and changing, and a part of you dying. It's about dreams and quests and how adults often no longer have them - only bitterness. And about not wanting to become that way. It's about the stories we make up and tell about ourselves. That's why they go on a quest - to prove to themselves that they are interesting enough people to have quests, and that they finish them and don't quit halfway through.

Also, can I just say that I loved the inclusion of the library as a place they took shelter in when they were questing? I loved reading about the kids browsing, playing in the stacks, riding those book-wagons down the aisle and fawning over review copies of books they'd been waiting for for months. Also, the sailing episode. That was fantastic.

Overall, Doll Bones was a very refreshing read for me. There was a bit (okay, in some cases a lot) of creepy, which I always like. The characters were all complex and memorable and the relationships between them were interesting, also in the way they changed over time. The adventure plot and its pacing was great and I liked how it was at the same time a magical thing but still something that could happen in the real world, with real world problems (like creepy strangers on the bus or uncrossable rivers or lack of money) getting in the way. More and more, the magic/story/play world and the real world began to merge or at least co-exist, until something jarring happened and the gap became more noticeable again.

I think I have (or maybe had) this prejudice against middle grade books that they tend to be a bit heavy-handed because authors/adults think that kids won't understand what is being hinted at otherwise, and I find that patronizing. Kids are smart and often very good at reading other people. I'm happy to say that this was taken into account here. The writing is nuanced and there are no blatant 'lessons to be learned from this story' parts in Doll Bones. So, if anyone else has MG reads of this kind to recommend, feel free to mention them in the comments.

I don't really know what else to say without being spoilery and taking away from the experience of the story. All I know is that this is one I'm going to re-read every once in a while, to remind myself of things that are important and easily forgotten.

Have any of you read Doll Bones? What was your experience with it? Did you ever play these sorts of games as a kid? And can recommend other (maybe creepy?) MG reads to me?

So... I have survived NaNoWriMo and I'm back!

Hi there... as I suspected in my post about a month ago, I've been pretty much MIA.

The good part? I'm excited to be blogging again. In fact, once I finish this post I am hitting 'publish' on a review I just finished writing a moment ago. I owe a lot of reviews... *buries head in shame*

The better part? I pulled through NaNo with 52,669 words, which with what I've written before and since currently sets my story at 69k! I'm not finished by a pretty long shot (probably another 30k) and I'll have to cut and revise the hell out of it, but I love the world and the characters and it just feels good to be writing and creating.

I kind of wish I had written more (in 2011, I had 66k) but well...

I got Assassin's Creed: Black Flag in late October and by the end of November, I had also played like 60 hours of that... in addition to writing and working and some reading (but not blogging). Oops? Seriously though, that game sucked me in for like 5 hours straight sometimes (or until 3am) and I didn't even realize the passing of time. I could sail around the Caribbean with Edward Kenway and James Kidd to plunder ships and assassinate templars for forever.

Anyway. During that time, I also had to look for a new apartment for my sister and me, which I am very VERY glad to say we found! It's like a miracle, only took us about two weeks - must be a record in this city! Zurich is notorious about not having enough apartments and charging ridiculous prices. I used to go to viewings ten mins early and still have to wait halfway down the staircase for my turn to quickly do a 30 seconds walk through the place and, if I was lucky, grab an application sheet if there were any left at this point.

We really like the place we're renting at the moment but the building is going to be torn down and rebuilt at the end of February (that's why the rent was so cheap), so we had to get out. The new place has a better kitchen and bigger bathroom though, so that's great, even though the neighborhood isn't as pretty. But it will be my first time living in a place and not having a contract that says 'only until this specified month about 1-2 years from now'. If I move again, it'll be my own choice rather than other circumstances forcing me out of my home.
Now I only have to box up my 400 or so books...

So, that's what's been going on in my life. I really hope I can blog some more before the end of the year, but I'm also flying to Belgium and then getting in a friend's friend's car for a road trip under the Channel (in a car beneath the sea. I am not at all scared, no no) and then up to Derby, England for the final show of a great band (adventure!), plus I have no Christmas presents yet. And we're probably moving between Christmas and Silvester. So, lots of organizing to do. But at least life is happening. Plus, I can buy more book shelves after the move because once more, my blog name is very very accurate...

How has NaNoWriMo gone for those of you who participated? And are there any bookloving frequent-movers with advice on how to best pack up those precious books?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I wish would get their own book

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic that the participants come up with a top ten list for.

This is such a cool idea for a post! There are so many interesting side characters I'd like to know more about!

As always, my top ten are in no particular order.

Abby from Katie McGarry's Crash Into You
She's tough, I like her, and she definitely has a story to tell. I actually thought the fourth book in the series would be hers but so far it doesn't seem to be happening.

Gavriel from Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
I'd love to know more about his past before he met Tana! We do get some of his backstory but I'd like to hear it from his own point of view.

Sturmhond from the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
One of my favorite characters there! I'd love to hear more about his days as a pirate or when he served in the army. Or really just a glimpse into his mind.

Durzo Blint from the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
He is such a prominent character but a big enigma for a large part of the series. I'd like him to get his own novel. Or a prequel trilogy. I know there's a novella that looks into his life, but it's short and I haven't read it yet.

Noah from the Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin
He's such a great character! I think I could listen to what goes on in his head for hours. And well, it's implied that his life before he met Mara was already eventful. So there'd be no shortness of story to tell.

Walter C. Dornez from the Hellsing manga series by Hirano Kouta
That guy is so badass. I always loved his fighting scenes! I really wish the author would continue the Hellsing: The Dawn series about Walter and Alucard's adventures when he was younger, during WWII. So much sass.

Fear from Kelsey Sutton's Some Quiet Place
He was great. I know he features prominently in the novel but I'd like to know what it all looks like from where he's standing.

Morpheus from A.G. Howard's Splintered series
He's one of my favorite characters. You never know what he's playing at. His head would be a... madly interesting place.

Ivy from the Hollows series by Rachel Harrison
I'm sort of cheating here because I think the graphic novel adaption of the series (which I haven't read) is from Ivy's perspective. She's awesome. And I've read a short story from her POV but I'd like to see more. Maybe also of her past with Kisten and growing up under the eyes of Piscary.

Zero from the Vampire Knight manga series by Matsuri Hino
I admit it. I was a Kaname person for quite a while, but at some point I did a 180. And when I re-watched the anime and re-read part of the manga... oh Zero, my heart aches for you. Such a great character, so much undeserved pain. Seems to be a thing with side characters.

Despite thinking the topic is awesome, this was actually harder than I thought it would be. So many great characters have already gotten their own book / spin off series / novella! (Adrian from Vampire Academy, Space and Mencheres from the Night Huntress series, Mae from The Demon's Lexicon, Tod from the Soul Screamers series, Warner from Shatter Me...) Or else it's the mystery that makes them so interesting and so I am hesitant about wanting to read about it all.
What do you think of my picks, and how did you fare with your own?