Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Report #8 - Firekeeper Saga 3 / The Dragon of Despair

It’s been a while that I finished reading this book, but to be honest I had forgotten half the plot shortly after I’ve read it anyway. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it or that I don’t like the author, Jane Lindskold, or her style. In this series the characters and the world are just far more interesting than the stories they tell. Seems odd, but it’s working somehow.

I enjoyed it immensely to follow Firekeeper around once more. Her views of the world, the people in it and the Royal Beasts that are her true family are brilliant. Yes, maybe she’s just a bit too stubborn and single-minded now and then, but you can be sure that Blind Seer steps up then and tries to reason with her – in his unique wolfish way. There is always something new to discover about her, too, which is the real reason why those books stay interesting. This time she realized that her life-span is probably longer than that of her beloved Royal Wolves. So she's prepared to even sacrifice some years of it, to become more like them. It was also heartbreaking to see how much defeat can affect this young woman who is more feral wolf than human in many ways.

It was a nice surprise to learn that there is in fact real and powerful magic in this world. There had been glimpses of it before, but most of it could be regarded as a special talent or a rather subtle supernatural phenomenon. So I really didn’t know for sure if there really was a dragon or if it just was an exaggerated legend and had great joy in discovering the truth together with the characters only at the very end of the book.

The rest of the world and its characters grow more and more multi-layered, too. Sometimes you wonder, if that information or side-story really is relevant now, but usually it actually gets connected with something else and thus earns its place in the book. It’s like the picture slowly grows bigger and bigger, gaining more and more details.

I would love to create a character like Firekeeper. The basic idea of a human child being raised by wolves (or any other wild animal) is nothing new, and yet the way that you gain insight into her mind and her struggle to find a place for her in this world is much more compelling and certainly more realistic than any Mowgli or Tarzan. 
I also like it, when a character has more than one set of behaviour. In this case, it's just brilliant how eloquent and civilized (in their way) the Royal Beasts and Firekeeper act when among themselves. And then you see her among humans, where she can barely make herself understand and understands even less of their ways and how she should act when among them. 

On the other hand, I fear that some of the stories I began are not much more than background noise, like in this case, too. I’m curious how this will develop in the remaining books of this series.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Report #7 - Jane Austen's Guide to Dating (Ein Date mit Mr. Darcy)

This isn't a novel and even though there are snippets of Jane Austen's stories in it, this book is basically non-fiction. However, it still was one of my reads and I actually enjoyed it quite a lot.

Usually, I wouldn't have chosen such a book for myself (in German), but this was a present from a friend and when I couldn't decide what to read next from my pile of fiction, I decided it was time for something different.
The author often mentions that this isn't a "How to" book and actually it's part of her argumentation that such books are rubbish. Nevertheless, I believe this IS exactly just another relationship guide, just with another approach. 
You don't need to be in a relationship or even wanting one to enjoy this book, however you should have some interest in the stories and characters of Jane Austen. On the other hand, you don't need to know those by heart, since when the author uses them, she describes the relevant characters and the situation quite well. 
I liked that there are also contemporary examples and that it shows how times have changed since the Bennet's & Co.. 
Since all sorts of different types of persons and circumstances get dealt with, it may take a while until you find one or two that speak to you directly. I believe I actually did learn a thing or two from this book.

The best part, however, are the personality tests at the end. 
First, you answer a couple of questions to find out which Jane Austen character is like you (or vice versa) - and you'll also get told how well which Austen character would be suited as your partner. Be mindful, this only works for women who want to date men ;) Sorry to all other kind of reader. I got "Elizabeth Bennet" as a result, without cheating!
Then you can answer questions find out which would be your ideal Austen man. Those were a bit odd at times and I wasn't always quite sure how to answer them. However, I got "Captain Wentworth / Henry Tilney / Mr Bingley" - of which I would choose Captain Wentworth, since he was also one of the men compatible to "Elizabeth" (although Tilney was among them, too) and I really like him and Persuasion.

Although I probably never will write a non-fiction book, it was interesting to read these character studies. I'm sure this knowledge will come in handy one day.

This got cross-posted with my Livejournal.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Report #6 - Nightrunner 7 / Shards of Time

It's always an odd feeling to read the last book of a series, especially one that you've followed for a long time and of which the characters have become important to you, like old friends. You have special occasions, because you don't want it all to end lamely or with an all too dramatic bang or with no proper ending at all.
Some years ago, the Nightrunner books were recommended to by good friends. We shared more or less the same interests and I knew I could trust their judgement, even if this was a genre I hadn't quite read before: thieves / spies in a fantasy world. The decision wasn't too difficult anyway, I had always liked fantasy and I didn't mind interesting thieves :)

What I hadn't expected were characters and a world that was painted with words so multi-layered and fascinating that the author, Lynn Flewelling, would turn into one of my all-time favourites. She is brilliant and was clever enough to have used her “Nightrunner world” for a whole set of another series, too. The Tamìr books tell quite a different story and one which happens hundreds of years before the adventures of Alec and Seregil, but you always get treated to glimpses into that past, especially in “Shards of Time”. So, this book was actually like a closure to both series.
All those years ago, I also hadn't expected to start reading books about male characters who end up as lovers. For some, this might be a reason to skip the Nightrunners, it certainly would have been for me, had I known about it then. But when I was actually reading the first book and only at the end of it is the first hint that this might happen, it felt like the most natural thing. Alec and Seregil are one of the best couples I've ever known and I wouldn't want to have missed them for anything. They didn't only proof to me that this kind of story wasn't something you should skip out of principle, they are also a good example how to have a couple as main characters without telling a romance story. That just isn't what those Nightrunner books are about, but like this last one showed, it's never forgotten that these two men are the lifeblood of each other. They've chosen a dangerous life, but it's the most natural thing that they couldn't go on alone any more.
But they are not the only great characters in this series. Like in the Tamír books, the whole world and its cultures are almost characters in their own right and I'll miss those just as well as the other people that populated Rhiminee and the other places of Lynn's world. On that score, Shards of Time didn't disappoint either. Of course, there were moments when I thought that final battle could end with anything else than disaster. And although I had (of course) took a short look at the ending to see who might survive it all, I was on the edge of my seat when I read those last chapters for real. I had to cry out of sadness and happiness. I wanted to start reading that same book or the whole series from the start right away. In other words, it was a perfect ending, because it was a new beginning.

I believe, I could forget all the writing courses I started, if I just could understand how Lynn Flewelling is creating her works. I know that she has offered writing courses in the past, on a ship cruise even! It must be wonderful to join her for one of those.

But since I don't know if that'll ever happen, I still can try to learn from her books, while I keep enjoying to reread them over and over again.

This got cross-posted in my Livejournal.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Report #5 - Doctor Who / The Doctor Trap

I realized why I stopped collecting more or less blindly all Doctor Who books (not that I gathered up that many to begin with): not every author can write well for the Doctor. Or perhaps it's just that not every of those many authors that work for BBC Books writes to my liking.

"The Doctor Trap" is about Ten and Donna. It shows their faces on the cover, but I found myself often thinking of Eleven instead. Not that this was a typical Matt Smith adventure right from the beginning - it's just that I couldn't find much that way typical David Tennant in it. If the author hadn't described the Doctor's appearance now and then and if I hadn't reminded myself that only Ten spend time with Donna, it really could have been any Doctor (or a whole range of other people).
Donna herself was better portrayed, probably because she's rather unique. However, her's was only a small part in the whole story.
The main character seemed to have been the antagonist Sebastiene, who started out as the all-powerful ruler of a planet that fulfilled his every wish, but ended as a slightly annoying maniac.
And then there was the Doctor's doppelgänger, Baris - who probably was a main character, too. Although since he doesn't know if he's himself or the Doctor for most of the time, he has to share this with the real Doctor.

Confused yet? Well, I was now and then - but not as much as I would have preferred.
Ever more confused now? :)
Well, I think this story was about how someone wanted to hunt the Doctor and thus created a doppelgänger to lure him in. However, the Doctor saw through that scheme and turned it on its head - acting as the doppelgänger and making the Not-Doctor believe he was the Doctor so the real deal could find out what really was going on.
Not the worst idea I've ever read, but somehow it got revealed too soon or perhaps just in an unfortunate way. I soon found myself a bit bored of "I'm really him" and "you can't be him" and "perhaps you are lying" etc. and I didn't really care much how it all got resolved in the end.

I still have a few more unread Doctor Who books and I might even buy more in the future, but most likely not another one by this author (Simon Messingham).

And if I ever want to write a story about a person pretending to be someone else, I now know I should be careful how I go about it.

This got cross-posted in my LiveJournal.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Report #4 - Omen of the Stars 3 / Night Whispers

Yes, I finally managed to complete more than 1 book in a month, although the Warriors books are all rather short and fast reads. This one was the 3rd in the sub-series "Omen of the Stars" and of course, I want to continue with that storyline.

You have to be a cat-lover to like those books, I guess, and you shouldn't mind reading about animals that talk and act like humans among each other. Well, not quite like humans, because they still have distinct cat-traits and usually they are the only animals that do any talking, but I dare say they have been quite humanized, too.
Nevertheless, I've liked this series since I started it a couple of years ago. It's not very demanding literature and since each book more or less tells you all the essentials you need to know about that world and its characters, you should't read more than one book in a row. But now and then, it's nice to be back in the forest - or nowadays at in the forest by the lake.

The current storyline is a bit weird and sometimes annoying, however, because the bad guys are evil cats that have already been defeated and should be dead. On the other hand, there always has been a supernatural element in that world, so I shouldn't complain that those "ghosts" can be rather active.
One of my favourite characters is still Jayfeather, even if he's often grumpy and doesn't always know what to do and seems to make a lot of wrong decisions, too.
Now, at the middle of this sub-series, I have only a vague idea where this all will end and there is no guarantee who will survive it or what will happen to the clan cats. All I know is that this is apparently the last in the whole series, from a chronological point of view (there are prequels and sequels, I believe). So, I think I won't spoil myself (much) this time and just wait and see.

I've never wanted to write a story from an animal's point of view, I think. They are interesting to read, however, if you like to be in that particular specie's set of mind and if it's well written, of course.
One thing you certainly can learn from this series is how to develop characters and let them grow until they gradually fade away in the background while new characters become the heroes. Humanized as they are, these cats certainly are more or less as complex as humans (or elves or aliens etc.). Their world, however, is a bit simpler and smaller than most others, even if they constantly have new problems.

Les Miserables is on hold for now, because I've got too much else to do and much better books to read and it wasn't particularly interesting where I left it.

This got cross-posted in my LiveJournal.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book-Report #3 - Wolfsmond / Wolves of the Calla

I finally finished the 900+ pages of Stephen King's "Wolves of the Calla" (or "Wolfsmond" - wolf moon - as it is called in German).
I'm not entirely sure why it took me so long, because it actually was well written and I enjoyed it. I suppose it really was just a bad time for me to read such a long book which was also too thick to carry with me everywhere.

My aunt once gave me my very first Stephen King book, which was also one of the first books that I read without having to. Nowadays I would say I was too young to read something like this, but back then it didn't bother me and I acquired more of his works (but also books from other authors and genres).
It was also in those early days that I started with the first part of "The Dark Tower", of which this is now the fifth part. I didn't like or enjoy all of them equally, yet I'm determined to finish this series. Actually, I'm looking forward to the next part. Perhaps this time I don't wait so long that I can't remember what has happened before.

I can't really tell why many people consider Stephen King a good author, I just can admit that I share this opinion. It would be nice to figure out the hows and whys so that my own writing could improve from that.

On a final note, let me try to summarize what happened on those many pages ...
Roland and his friends are still trying to reach the Dark Tower, but got sidetracked by a village that needed their help. During this they found new allies and a new way to travel between the worlds and learned more about themselves and each other (most of it unpleasant). By the end of the book, they might have saved the village, but their personal losses might be greater and graver than it already seems.

Oh, and I'm still reading the Les Miserables eBook, which is back to being boring again - so there is not much progress there at the moment.

This was cross-posted on my LiveJournal Blog.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Report #2 - Örtlich (un)begrenzt

February is soon at its end and I've finished my second book this year.
Well, I'm not even sure if this thing deserves to be called "book", since with only about 100 pages and "only" filled with short-stories and poems it's more like a booklet.

Oh, and yes, it's written in German - the English title would be something like "Locally (un)restricted", unless I didn't get an intended pun.
I've bought it a while ago in our local bookshop. With "local bookshop" I literally mean they are also the local publisher and in that capacity mainly publish book about my home town, the region or things written by people from here.
This particular little book collects stories and poems by 3 women I've never heard of before, and to be honest, I don't care to read anything else from them.

Most of the contents were at best odd and some even downright depressing. I don't read much in that format, but I like them when they are well written and / or clever - these generally were neither.
I bought this book, because I'm a big fan of my home town and had hoped to get a few stories about it or about people who live in it - real or fictional - no matter the genre - no matter the writing style.
Yes, the town and even some special aspects of it get named or even properly used now and then, but almost every bit of the book could have referred to some other place just as well. Sometimes the place is even altogether irrelevant - so why include "local" in the title?

One of the women, at least, wrote funny and even rather clever stories. Her name is Nicole Eick, a namesake.
Nevertheless, this kind of work is not what I would ever like to publish or even show to friends. It just seems too pointless.

Concerning my other current reads, I'm nearing the end of "Wolves of Calla" at a steady pace and it's interesting enough to keep me reading, when I've got the time.
"Les Miserables" also had a few good chapters for a while again, but now it might turn into a long winded history book again. At least, Marius finally met Eponine and Cosette, although he doesn't know their names yet.